Drink of the week:
A chalice of Leffe Blonde
Where you can find it: Drum & Monkey, 1435 W. Taylor St.
The damage: $6
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? On my first visit to Little Italy, I sprinted down Taylor Street in flip-flops with a Polaroid camera in tow. I had one goal: to take a photograph of Meghan, my scavenger-hunt teammate, outside of Mario's Italian Ice, and make it back to the Blue Line as quickly as possible. I was participating in a team-building field trip for my job at the time, and although images of pasta-slinging Italian joints were merely a blur in my peripheral vision, they had left me yearning to return to the neighborhood. Funnily enough, I never went back until last week when Meghan decided to celebrate her birthday at Drum & Monkey, a fairly typical but well-done Irish pub in the heart of the 'hood. That leaves me 0-2 on getting my hands on a plate of spaghetti in the most likely place to score some in the city.
How it went down: Because Drum falls somewhere between a college hangout for nearby UIC students and an authentic Irish tap, the beer list spans from pitchers of Miller Lite to pints of Harp to pours like Leffe served in authentic barware. Being as it was a b-day party, I knew I'd be downing plenty of light lager before the night was through, so I started off with Leffe Blonde.
I've ordered the Belgian ale a few times before, and while it's not my favorite brew from Belgium—Deliruim Tremens earns that distinction—it's flavorful and fairly sessionable, the kind of beer you could sip or slam for hours on end, completely oblivious to its hefty 6.6-percent alcohol volume. With a hint of honey and a light bite of fruitiness, the ale tastes crisp and has an effervescent quality. Between drinks, I'd reach over the dark wood booth, stealing bits of lightly breaded calamari (that's sort-of Italian, right?) and mini chicken sandwiches, doused in just the right amount of tangy buffalo sauce.
Would I want to become a regular? Sure enough, after two rounds of Leffe I moved on to the Lite. For our group of 10 or so, we ordered by the pitcher-load, only costing us seven bucks per round. While I don't generally spout props for pitchers of domestic suds, this one was special: Drum's pitchers cleverly sport an empty compartment that the bartender fills up with ice. Though ours never lasted long enough to require cooling, it was a nice touch, as was the dim lighting and tin ceiling. I'll likely stop by Drum again—though it better be after a feast at a neighboring trattoria.
Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.