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Where (and what) to drink, eat in Chicago

Northwestern is not Chicago's Big Ten team, but visiting fans should consider Chicago Northwestern's Big Ten drinking city.

The ubiquitous Revolution Brewing taps.
The ubiquitous Revolution Brewing taps.
Quinn Dombrowski-Flickr

I'm pretty excited about this weekend of college football. Not only are there hundreds of good games in the SEC West alone, I get to attend my first Badger game of the year! Unfortunately, it still is not at Camp Randall Stadium, but it is in my current city of residence, which sure is convenient! Also, if you haven't heard, I have been a bartender in the city of Chicago for the last three years and as such I have thoughts on where you should spend your time this weekend. A lot of thoughts.

This is going to be a bit of a different beer preview, because I will also be including several places you should drink beers on Friday and Saturday nights. I'm sure most of you that are traveling to Chicago have already made plans for where you are going to stay, but if you haven't, DON'T STAY IN EVANSTON! It is super easy to get to Evanston via train from downtown Chicago. There is nothing you can do in Evanston that isn't five times better to do in Chicago (and five times more expensive, but I digress).

Places to drink

I'm going to break this down into two categories: spots to grab an awesome beer that you may have never heard of and places to watch football on Saturday night (or Sunday morning if you're still in town). Here are a list of my favorite beer bars in the city:

Hopleaf: Andersonville neighborhood, Belgian food, voluminous beer selection, not kid-friendly (is always 21-and-up no matter the time of day), doesn't take reservations.

Sheffield's: Wrigleyville neighborhood, BBQ, three different bar areas with different beers on tap at each one, beer garden that may or may not be open.

Local Option: Lincoln Park neighborhood, tacos/sandwiches/apps, they brew their own beer (coincidentally also named Local Option) and have many, many guest taps, heavy metal.

Northdown Cafe: Lakeview neighborhood, upscale bar food (burgers/sausages/mac 'n' cheese), lots of Mikkeller and 3 Floyds, half a block away from The Green Lady (a bar with 30 beers on draft) -- both of these spots provide a nice, neighborhoody feel.

The Longroom: Irving Park & Ashland, no food as of yet (despite the sign saying "kitchen opening this fall"), no TVs, quiet, wonderful beer selection, right next to a Popeye's.

The Map Room: Bucktown neighborhood, on the smaller side, a ridiculous list of beers from all over the world, great coffee/breakfast spot that opens at 7:30 on Saturdays.

Fountainhead: Ravenswood neighborhood, upscale pub food, rooftop garden that may or may not be open (DAMN YOU, POOR WEATHER FORECAST!), sister bar is Bar on Buena (which is right by my house, has an excellent beer list, too, but is a little off the beaten path).

Most bars, even crappy-looking sports bars, in Chicago will have at least one local option that will sate your most difficult friend.

There are, quite literally, 20 more bars I could name here that would satisfy any beer nerd, but I don't really want this to be 8,000 words long. Here's a list from this past March that includes many of my favorites but adds a few more. Most bars, even crappy-looking sports bars, in Chicago will have at least one local option that will sate your most difficult friend. If you are staying in Evanston, there is a World of Beer located near campus that has an impressive list of beers. I believe the World of Beer chain is coming to Middleton in the near future, so stop in and check out a mostly agreeable chain bar!

Here are some of the best Badger bars in the city, which will also double as great places to watch football on Saturday night while still reveling in a Wisconsin win:

Will's Northwood's Inn: Looks like a bar from outside of Rhinelander was swept up by a tornado and deposited in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago -- you will feel right at home here. Packers bar on Sundays (or Thursdays, if you're here really early).

Lottie's: Has a bus trip organized to Evanston for the game. Actually, many of these places probably are organizing bus trips to the game. Look into that if you are worried about getting to and from Evanston on THE SCARY CTA (note: it is not scary, don't be a rube).

Redmond's: A stereotypical Wrigleyville sports bar. Lots of TVs, cheap beer on gamedays, will probably remind you of Wando's. A Vikings bar on Sundays, for those who grew up in the wrong state but went to college in the right one.

Fat Pour: An extensive beer list, but a bit (read: a lot) louder than all of the beer bars mentioned above. Great if you don't mind loud music and drunk bros, because they do have lots of TVs and the aforementioned extensive beer list.

Prost!: Great German beer hall with German beer hall-style food and beer, will remind you of the Essenhaus. A Steelers bar on Sundays, if you hate yourself.

One last bar selection if you would like to be served by the finest bartender the University of Wisconsin has ever produced that also happens to be writing this very post: stop by Henry's Swing Club in the River North neighborhood on Friday night. I will be there all day and would love to serve my Internet friends a real-life beer (or cocktail -- we have a really awesome cocktail list).

Things to drink

Chicago has always been a wonderful place to drink beer, but in the last five years, Chicago has become a wonderful place to drink good beer. I'd argue that no city has been more positively affected by the craft beer boom than Chicago. It will soon be to the point that every neighborhood in Chicago (and there are a lot) will have a brewery to call its own. Here are a few local breweries that you should seek out for some delicious, delicious local beer:

Half Acre: The Daisy Cutter Pale Ale has become fairly ubiquitous in bars around Chicago. They have a taproom you can check out, and right next door you can fill growlers! Comes in cans, so ideal for tailgating.

Revolution: Like Daisy Cutter, Revolution's Anti-Hero IPA is in bars all over town. Look for the green Hulkesque fist on tap. I recommend the Eugene Porter for this early fall matchup. Also comes in cans for your tailgating needs.

What About the Football?

Solemn Oath: A brewery out of Naperville, Solemn Oath has some extremely aggressive beers with kickass labels and killer names. Butterfly Flashmob (Belgian IPA), Death By Viking (Double IPA) and Combat Marshmellow (Double stout) are among my favorites. Look for these at Binny's (warehouse liquor store chain that has everything) because they are harder to find at bars.

Pipeworks: Named the best new brewery in the world two years ago and does not disappoint. If you can find any of their Abduction Series (differently flavored stouts) you should grab a bottle. Again, Binny's is your go to spot on Sunday to grab some beers on your way out of town.

DryHop: My local brewery. They have an ever-rotating list of drafts, and solid food. The Shark Meets Hipster wheat IPA is one of my favorites, and as of Oct. 2 they have it on draft. They also just started filling 32 oz. "crowler" cans to go, sooooooo...

Temperance Beer Company: BONUS EVANSTON BREWERY! These guys have a taproom in Evanston and open at noon on Saturdays. We sell their Gatecrasher (English style IPA) at my bar, so seriously, swing on by Friday night!

Others to consider: Spiteful Brewing, Piece Pizza and Brewing -- best Sunday (carryout) deal in the city: $25 for a pizza and growler -- Metropolitan, Atlas Brewing, Begyle Brewing, Brickstone, Off Color, Une Annee... I seriously could go on but you guys can only drink so much beer in a weekend.

If any of y'all are coming to Chicago for the weekend, hit up the comments with questions. I'd be happy to answer some and I know we have some readers who live here as well that are probably/definitely cooler than me, so hopefully they'll hop in with some options. I know we haven't played at Northwestern since 2009, which I'm pretty sure is pre-Internet, but I'm terrified of this game and will be drinking accordingly. Please join me!