South Water Kitchen, named for its location on South Water Street under the Hotel Monaco, serves American comfort food from the kitchens of days passed: grilled Iowa pork chops with mashed potatoes, Yankee beef pot roast and pigs-in-a-blanket. But don't mistake classic for basic: Here, a cabbage-apple-bacon ragout joins the pork chop, and smoked chicken and apple sausage takes on the role of the pig.
Daily lunch specials, dubbed TV dinners, include ketchup-glazed meatloaf and Salisbury steak, each paired with a butterscotch blondie for $15. And while the breakfast menu's buttermilk pancakes might seem conventional, original options like the grilled cheese stuffed with citrus cream cheese and glazed bananas join its ranks.
For late-night diners, the separate tavern menu names each dish after a Chicago neighborhood. There's the Lincoln Square (bratwurst and sauerkraut with potatoes), the Taylor Street (Italian beef sandwich with bell peppers), and the Wicker Park (beer battered onion rings with honey mustard sauce).
And if a booth isn't calling your name, take advantage of the bar's $6 bloody marys on Sundays and $4 Sam Adams on Thursdays. In cold months, the flight of hot chocolate poured into three mugs of peppermint, cinnamon and butterscotch schnapps warms the bones.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Stephanie Sims