Three favorite fireplace bars for those wintery nights when you need a drink
By Corey O’Day
The following is courtesy of The Real Chicago’s winter issue. To read more articles like it, visit www.TheRealChicagoOnline.com
2532 W. Chicago Ave. in Ukrainian Village
The spot: The Beetle is an unpretentious, low-key bar in West Ukrainian Village. The ultimate neighborhood hang where you can meet your pals for a game of pool or a round of pub trivia (Monday nights).
What we tried: The lentil soup. It was fantastic. Nothing better than warming up by the fire with a warm bowl of soup. Unless, of course, it’s warming up with a $4 whiskey (Wednesdays). The kitchen is open until 1 a.m. every night, so it’s a great place for a late bite.
Coziness factor: Lights are low and candles glow on each table, making it feel like you could enjoy a first date or your first comfortable public nap in this establishment. The fireplace glimmers enticingly from the booth in the corner of the bar. Only one lucky group at a time gets to enjoy the full splendor of the fireplace. I recommend getting there early or looming awkwardly nearby until the spot opens up.
Why we’ll be back: The Beetle is an unpretentious place with great specials — like $2 tacos or $7 gourmet pizzas — and a friendly staff. They also serve brunch from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.
3130 N. Broadway in Lakeview
The spot: More restaurant than bar, Wilde is an Irish oasis on bustling Broadway in Lakeview. They offer an expansive menu with a plethora of vegetarian and gluten-free options. They also serve brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and let kids eat free on weekday evenings from 4:30-6:30 p.m.
What we tried: The “Wilde Macaroni & Cheese” with Irish cheddar, Irish bacon (which I skipped, due to my meat phobia), caramelized onion and a garlic crumb crust. It was stellar. Comfort food with a gourmet twist that’s definitely worth braving the weather.
Coziness factor: Not only is Wilde just a generally welcoming place with two gorgeous antique bars, but they have a fireplace located in an area of the restaurant they refer to as the “grand library.” The wise words of Oscar Wilde stretch around the room, assuring patrons that, “Love and gluttony justify everything.” You can almost feel yourself absorbing knowledge and sarcasm along with the warmth as you guiltlessly order another pint.
Why we’ll be back: There is so much more of the menu to explore! And so much more wisdom to absorb from those important-looking leather armchairs in the grand library. Wilde is a classy, comfy place to bring the whole family. The grown-ups in your party are sure to appreciate the vast and various alcohol offerings, especially the beer list of more than four dozen bottled beers and two dozen drafts, seven of which are ever-changing so regulars never get bored.
1547 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park
The spot: This Irish pub in the heart of Wicker Park has a little bit of everything. A front and back bar, a balcony with seating, a DJ on weekends and a full dinner menu.
What we tried: The vegetarian stuffed mushroom caps and nachos. Both were satisfactorily pub-y. A good go-to when you want some standard pub grub to accompany your pint. The Guinness is well priced and well poured. They also have a few other Irish options on draft: Harp, Smithwick’s and Magners Irish cider.
Coziness factor: The front bar can get a bit crowded and clubbish on weekends, but fear not, because as you round the corner to the back room, you are greeted by ceiling-high bookshelves, comfy booths and fireside tables for two. The fireplace in the center of the room offers all the snugness of story time at the foot of your grandfather’s armchair. The only thing missing is the smell of pipe tobacco.
Why we’ll be back: Pint offers the comfort of a night in with the excitement of a night out. You can get everything from onion rings to shepherd’s pie or a New York strip all in the same place. This mish-mash of styles really works. Now if only you could wear your Snuggie.