Drink of the Week: A discounted pint of Smithwick's at Poag Mahone's on a Thursday night.
The damage: $4.50, reduced from $5.25. Not exactly cheap, but it was affordable enough for the Financial District.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? I wish I could say it was my idea to see a taping of NPR's quiz show "Wait, Wait…Don't Tell Me!" but it wasn't. People who tune in to the relaxing voices on WBEZ always seem like the most-grounded, well-read folks—the kind who'd kick my ass on Jeopardy, no matter how faithful my devotion to the trusty news magazine, The Week—and I wouldn't mind being categorized with the likes of them. But at 8 a.m., the only time I listen to the radio, my heart (and my ears) belongs to WXRT and Lin Brehmer, not public radio. In fact, I had never even listened to "Wait, Wait" until my friends, who were vacationing in Chicago from North Carolina, booked the tickets for a group of us. If I was going to make like an NPR groupie, I figured a nice cold pint would do me good. Poag Mahone's answered the call with its close proximity to the Chase Auditorium, marked-down imports and half-price quesadillas.
How it went down: I love a good Irish pub and have frequented plenty in the city, but Poag for me was a first: a trader bar. With an office in River North, I usually find myself among an after-work crowd of artist-types or tourist overflow. The dark wood-accented bar, with cheeky, alcohol-themed sayings decorating the walls, packed in the power suits, sipping on martinis and loudly talking over a baseball game. My friends and I grabbed a tall table and ordered a round of beers and a plate of veggie quesadillas.
Once fall hits, I like to drink brews with a little weight to them, but with all the Indian summer days in early October, I needed to find the perfect light-but-heavy balance. Enter Smithwick's. The Irish red ale has a deep rust color, a fairly rich flavor and medium body, but it's highly drinkable. With a flavor profile that's light on the hops and slightly sweet, almost caramel-like, the suds went down smooth and quickly, as did the quesadillas, thick with cheese and grilled peppers. After just one plate and pint, it was time to head to the show.
Would I want to become a regular? Unless I drastically switch career paths and land a job at the Board of Trade, I'll probably have only one reason to return to Poag: another date with Peter Sagal's clever jokes. The host of "Wait, Wait," along with the affable Carl Kasell and three panelists who sling out wry and witty commentary, earned a return visit in my book. Taping or no, Poag isn't a bad place to grab a post-work beer, though—so long as it doesn't result in a hangover. I like to be nice and sharp for my time with Brehmer in the morn'.
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.