Drink of the week:
The Roving Drover single-malt scotch flight at Duke of Perth
, 2913 N. Clark St., on a Saturday night.
The damage: $12 for tasting portions (slightly less than an ounce) of three scotches from various regions of The Highland.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? Chicagoans love the Irish. We elect them to office and dye a river green in their honor. I believe this adoration blinds us to the wonders of other UK countries manifested stateside. Namely, the Duke of Perth, one of the city's two Scottish pubs. Located on a busy stretch of Clark between Diversey and Belmont, I had walked by The Duke often, but because I know little 17th-century Scottish trivia and succumb to an affinity for Ireland, I had always assumed it was an Irish pub. Thankfully, my never-satiated appetite for fish 'n chips led me to dinner here, where the menu and decor scream of the Highlands.
How it went down: I used to think only stodgy men in sports coats ordered single-malt scotch. I would never let a stereotype alone stop me from experimenting with liquor, but until last weekend I had never found myself in a single-malt situation. Whether you're trying scotch for the first time or someone who was hooked after one whiff, the Duke of Perth, which boasts the city's largest collection, won't let you down.
With the help of our waitress, my friends and I weeded through the five flight options and opted for The Roving Drover. Three snifters branded with "Classic Malts of Scotland" filled with Glenkinchie 10 from the Lowland, Craggenmore from Speyside and Caol Ila from Islay rested on top of a wooden slat. Our waitress instructed us to keep the glasses in order and handed us a card with scotch descriptions that would make most wine bar menus seem vague. While we had to use the cheat sheet to tell the distinct notes of each—Glen's lemony cinnamon flavor, Cragg's fruity aftertaste and Caol's subtle hint of oak—they all tasted dramatically different. We chased every sip with a swig of Scotland's Tennents Lager.
Would I want to become a regular? The most notable trait of The Duke is that it doesn't rely on flat-screen TVs or loud music for ambience. With only scenes of Scotland, antique clocks, a faux fireplace and animal heads adorned in hats as a distraction, mid-twenties to middle-aged locals can converse with ease at the mismatched tables. On the menu, the food pays homage to famous Scots and the country's history. Nosh on a thick, half-pound Sean Connery burger or honor the birthplace of golf with a St. Andrew's 19th Hole Chicken Club.
For my $8.95, there's no better fish 'n chips in the city. As I stabbed bits of lightly breaded cod and watched my pile of peas roll onto the table, I thought to myself...If everyone can be Irish on St. Patty's Day, then anyone can be Scottish at The Duke.
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.