Solo Traveler In Need or Rec's for Two Days
I'll be in town for 3 days and 2 nights in late February, staying in the Lakeview area. I'll be visiting on somewhat of a whim and will be traveling solo and looking for some recommendations on activities, pubs and dining (or combination of some or all of the above).
My interests are first and foremost beer, good/unique food then museums, local flavor, etc. I'm sure I'll be able to find plenty of things to stick my nose in, but more so looking for recommendations on any quality gastropubs or hole-in-the-wall not-to-be-missed eats that will be more hospitable to the solo diner or person stopping in for a pint.
Any place on public transit is fine, though I haven't seen much of the Lakeview/Wrigleyville area and would prefer to stay around there if possible. That said, if there's something that shouldn't be missed let me know.
Thanks in advance.
Regarding beer, there are plenty of great choices across the city with most/all easily accessible on public transit. I think the city's absolute best brewpub right now is Revolution, a few miles west in Logan Square. They have a diverse selection of beers as well as some well-chosen guest taps. Food is unpretentious and really, really well-executed. The staff is very friendly and the room has a really nice, lively vibe. I really cannot recommend it enough.
Goose Island is the city's oldest brewery still in operation and while AB-InBev owns the main brewing facility, there are two brewpubs that remain independently owned/operated (for what that's worth). One brewpub is in Lakeview, just south of Wrigley, but I would skip it and instead head down to the first outpost off Clybourn Ave., a few miles to the south. They have a pretty big taplist and try a lot of different/interesting things. I don't think they are as consistent as Revolution, but it's still worthwhile. The food isn't terribly impressive, though (it's not bad, per se, but I wouldn't say it's great, either). This Clybourn location is also next to a giant liquor store, Binnys, in case you wanted to take some local stuff home with you.
Haymarket, in the West Loop, is another other local brewpub. They stick largely to belgians and IPA's, so if those are styles you really like, it could be worth a stop. The food is terrible, however. Piece, in Wicker Park, makes really good beer, as well, though their food menu is limited to pizzas (New Haven-style). Piece is also a sports bar and can get really, really crowded.
Some restaurants that are known for their beer lists include Hopleaf (in Andersonville), a 20-year pioneer in serving up craft beer with a lot of Midwest locals in addition to a huge number of belgians. Hopleaf doesn't accept reservations and the bar area can get crowded quickly. The sooner you get there after they open, the better. Really good food, too.
Fountainhead (Ravenswood) also nails the good food/great beer concept. They update BeerMenus.com pretty often so you can check that out before heading over there. Longman & Eagle (Logan Square) is one of the better gastropubs in the city (earning a Michelin star, even) with a solid beer list in addition to great food (if sometimes a little inconsistent). Normally, I'd suggest Publican but it's not a great place to eat if you're dining solo. Very good food and beer, however.
Two other bars known for craft beer are the Map Room (another 20+ year craft beer mecca -- cash only, no food) and the Local Option (lots of European craft imports in addition to midwest rarities/limited releases -- pricey and the food is pretty forgettable). Both use BeerMenus so, again, it might be worth seeing what's on tap before deciding on where to go.
The Map Room
1949 N Hoyne Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
5148 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640
The Local Option
1102 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
2323 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Longman & Eagle
2657 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
1970 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60613
Looks like the last poster knows a lot more about beer than I do so I I hope that's helpful.
For gastropubs, I would first consider The Publican, Longman & Eagle, and The Bristol. I have not yet been to the Purple Pig so I can't actually recommend it. The other three (especially The Publican and L&E have amazing beer options. And really great food. Besides, they're all comfortable places for a single diner. I also like Owen & Engine, a British gastropub, that was significantly better than anything I ate in actual England.
837 W. Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
Longman & Eagle
2657 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Thanks for the responses so far, these are very helpful. A few of the places that have been listed I have already had my eye on, and this has helped me make up my mind on a few places. I will definitely be checking out Revolution and Piece (big fan of brewpubs). Some of the other recs might just end up being based upon where I'm at when feeling thirsty/peckish, as many of them sound good.
Publican, L&E and Bristol all sound like great options and maybe I'll stop in if they're not overly busy (which doesn't sound like is often the case), though I think I'll be more likely to want a spot to kick back and enjoy a pint or two and some good grub after walking around all day.
I am also a huge fan of Owen & Engine, largely for the beer selection and the staff. They have (IMHO) the best cicerone in Chicago. They also have 4 casks, or engines, for hand-pulled beer as it is served in the UK. Additionally, the draft beer selection is great. The food is very good as well. To me, it is kind of a hidden gem, not to be missed.
It's not in Lakeview, but one of my favorite places to grab a bit to eat solo is Avec. Just sitting at the bar and talking to the chefs. Every now and then they have let me order half portions of dishes so I could try more of them. During the week is probably better and late night is my favorite.
Unless you get there pretty early (they do open at 3:30pm), you're right - it will probably be packed. As a solo diner, however, you may not have long to wait for a seat at the bar. Avec is located pretty centrally so if the wait proves too long, you're in a good position to travel easily to another destination.
Of the current recommendations, I would most highly recommend Hopleaf. The food is wonderful and really tailored to beer, and they have a great selection of local and international (especially Belgian) choices. It is a bit far north, but just a short walk from the red line, which you are (probably) on. I like Revolution, but it is on the blue line, which might be tricky for you, but depending on where you are coming from, you could walk from L&E and Revolution off the same Logan Square stop, which is a bonus. I may get scolded for saying, but I am not sure you would be into anything right around where you are staying...Wrigleyville is not exactly known for it's cuisine (or any beer other than miller lite) and Lakeview tends toward a more wine centered cuisine, I would say. If you are into the Irish pub thing, Gingerman isn't bad in Wrigley, and Duke of Perth is very decent in Lakeview. Or Cody's if you like darts (a little further off public transport). But please, if anyone can think of anything in those areas, prove me wrong and give me a reason to revisit!
Just so you are prepared, Piece does karaoke Thursday night, and live band karaoke Saturday night. It is up to you whether that is great news, or pause for thought. If you do go there, I would also try to hit up Big Star (off the same blue line stop) for amazing tacos and a decent beer list. They are more whiskey focused, but I think you could find something to drink. And the tacos....oh, the tacos.
Thanks for the feedback. I'm staying very close to the Belmont station on the red line, so your assumption is accurate. Hopleaf definitely sounds like a good option. It appears that there is a fair amount of nightlife near that area, is that a fair assumption to make?
Yeah, I didn't choose the Lakeview/Wrigleyville area because of the dining and craft beer options, but I'm still hoping to find the best of what's available and will be going out of my way to make sure those needs are met. That said, it's an area I've wanted to visit for awhile, and figured I should knock it out while I still can call myself a twenty-something (which won't be much longer). Don't fret, there will be no Miller Lite consumed by this guy and I'll definitely look into Gingerman and Duke of Perth as places to tie on one or two. Also, I'm definitely not going to Piece on Saturday night - I despise karaoke, thanks for the heads-up.
Saw mention of Big Star on another posting and definitely have that one bookmarked should I end up in the area. I definitely see a pork belly taco or two in my future, though I also saw Belly Shack was in that area as well and sounded real good. Anyone have any thoughts?
It would probably be worthwhile to confirm first, but I think the folks at the nearby bar Green Eye don't have a problem with bringing in food. Green Eye is a decent bar - pretty low-key, can get crowded but there's no kitchen (hence the attraction to bringing food in from Belly Shack, next door).
For what it's worth, if you were going to get to Revolution from Lakeview, a westbound Belmont bus to California Ave. and then taking a southbound California bus would work -- or you can take a west bound Fullerton bus and walk the couple blocks to the brewpub. CTA's online trip planner works really well and many bus/train stops have new signs that show estimated arrival times.
Revolution is also near The Whistler, one of the city's absolute best cocktail bars (but beware, it's tiny and they have a pretty full schedule of events -- and while karaoke probably won't be one of them, it wouldn't be a bad idea to check out the schedule before heading over -- http://whistlerchicago.com/calendar ).
In the Lakeview area, Sheffield's is pretty solid, as previously mentioned. The crowd may skew young and think Blue Moon is craft beer (a fair mistake... I guess!), but they have been pushing craft beer for a while now. Blokes & Birds (part of the ampersand wave of restaurants in the city -- including Owen & Engine, Longman & Eagle and Bangers & Lace) is not as worthwhile as O&E (or L&E), but it is in the Lakeview neighborhood and serves decent beer. You can always refer to beermenus.com if you're looking for something specific (though it's worth mentioning that not every restaurant/bar updates regularly (or ever -- ie. Hopleaf)).
Yeah, there are a ton of bars in Andersonville, you could start at Hopleaf and then just make your way up Clark and stop in where it looked likely. I like Simon's, too, it is a hole in the wall to say the least. And the beer list at the new Irish pub Lade Gregory's is really good and their food is very reasonably priced for the quality/quantity, but there tend to be a lot of families there if you go during dinner service. Take the red line to Berwyn, walk south to Foster, west to Clark, and you will be all set for a night out.
In the area of the Belmont stop, my choices would be Schuba's (kind of a haul, but they tend to get great bands in the back room) or Delilah's (loud kind of punk rock dive bar). Most of the other places close to you are going to be meat market drunk fests of either straight or gay persuasion. Which, again, may be a bonus for you as a solo traveler, I don't know!
The main thing is in any of the areas you are looking into, a bus or train ride will put you in an area with plenty of options. Logan Square, Bucktown (North/Milwaukee/Damen), and Andersonville are all riddled with places to grab a drink. As is where you are staying. So if one place doesn't grab you, walk to another! Hope your trip is a good one.
All, wanted to provide a follow-up thank you for all of the great suggestions. I won't go into lengthy detail about all of the places I checked out, but will provide a brief summary:
Revolution - Stopped in on my in on the blue line after arriving. Sampled all of their house brews, many of which were very impressive. Also ordered the duck confit salad, which was pretty good (the duck was great).
Sheffield's - Tried to stop in on Saturday night, was packed, didn't stay.
George Street Pub - Ended up here since Sheffield's was packed. Decent beer list with more of a sports bar atmosphere. Ordered the shrimp po' boy - wasn't bad, but nothing notable. Had a few Hinterland and Three Floyds brews that were great.
Fountainhead - Stopped in after walking around Devon Ave in the AM and meeting friends. Had a couple of great New Belgium brews (cocoa mole and framboizen) and also ordered the pulled pork benedict. The cornbread and pork were room temp and pretty dry, but really liked the bbq hollandaise and the eggs were well executed.
Goose Island Clybourn - Tried a few flights of the house brews. I have been a fan of the line of Belgians they've been putting out for a few years, and also sampled all of the beers they had on cask. Nothing special, but not a bad place.
The Local Option - Interesting place, enjoyable as long as you don't mind the place smelling like a urinal cake. Really cool bathrooms. Tried a number of the beers they have contract brewed and they were quite good, especially the american muscle. Ordered the swordfish tacos, not bad, but nothing special.
Hopleaf - Ended up here later at night and really liked the vibe of the place. Sampled a number of local brews that were enjoyable.
Longman & Eagle - Stopped in for a late brunch on my way out of town. Very cool vibe, friendly service and a good drink list. My liver was pretty fed up with me at this point, so just had a couple of Unibroue Ephimere's made from apple must to appease my somewhat irritated and ailing self. Also ordered the pork belly cubano. Tasty, but very rich. I think they gave me about 2 lbs. of fries with the sandwich (which were also good).
Thanks again for the recommendations all.