Almost two decades ago, John Hall and his son opened up a brewpub in Chicago. While microbrews are the new wine these days, the concept of small batches of beer that were crafted – not just created – was way ahead of its time. Yet the pub flourished, the neighborhood grew, and the core of a tiny beer empire and a nice neighborhood spread their roots. Word quickly spread about their beers: City-dwellers and critics alike took to options like the English bitter of their Honker's Ale, or the sweet, dark Belgian interplay of the Pere Jaques.
By late 2008, despite a wide-reaching distribution deal and a second successful brewpub location, the original pub was suffering the effects of the economic recession just like everyone else. But they also faced a rock pushing them into that hard place – their landlord was asking for a sizable rent increase, and it looked like the only option would be to close the pub. But John and Greg Hall fought for and came to compromises to keep their beloved pub for the foreseeable future.
As long as the place has survived this long, it speaks well of you to visit its familiar bar in the round some night of the week – a warm crowd is always saddled up to the bar, and spill over into the patio, side tables and lower level with an overall calm atmosphere. The beer list is updated each week, and the server will tell you not only what's on special, but what's been brewed most recently (fortunately, often the same selection). Most selections run from $5-7.
The food menu is well suited to pair with their various drafts, and there's even a wine list if you want to be completely mutinous. But looking around you'll see a lot of appetizers on the tables – ranging from crispy fried calamari and shrimp fritto (with a lime aioli) to a hearty sausage and cheese plate (with Paulina Market sausage, apples, olives, mustard and ciabatta bread) for about $12 a plate. The reason? With such a diverse and rewarding beer list, there's not much room for a full-out meal – not that you'll notice or mind.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Dan Morgridge