Drink of the week:
The Grafton Special at The Grafton
, 4530 N. Lincoln Ave., on a Friday night.
The damage: $6.50 for an elaborate Irish coffee topped with an inch of whipped cream.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? When Chicagoans want German they go to Lincoln Square, but the neighborhood's fine Euro imports don't stop there. When I want a tender corned beef sandwich or a pint of Harp, I hit up The Grafton in LS before anywhere else. Every Chicago neighborhood has its share of Irish pubs, but The Grafton's traditional atmosphere is fit for any folk from the Emerald Isle and well worth a trip.
How it went down: I've never been a morning person. Before I have my first cup of coffee, I'm practically unconscious. The same goes for when I'm out at night and my drinking pace plummets. At a time when many people reach for Red Bull (and the sensible people go home), I require the caffeinated cure that coffee brings. And if it comes with a bit of whiskey, I'll be good 'til bar close. For The Grafton Special, the bartender pours shots of Frangelico, Bailey's Irish Cream and Irish whiskey into the bottom of a wine glass. She finishes it off with steaming strong coffee, brown sugar and enough whipped cream to top a dozen sundaes. Frangelico's distinct hazelnut fragrance and Bailey's milky almond flavor add richness and depth to The Special. The sugary liqueurs and toppings made for a sweet concoction that reminded of the frothy liquid that pours from a gas station latte machine with the push of a button, and that's a compliment. Its warmth hit my belly and my head with plenty of time to make a night of it.
Would I want to become a regular? Newer Irish pubs in Chicago tend to go the way of cliched Guinness posters and shamrock paraphernalia, but not The Grafton. Instead, faux-finished walls feature black and white photos of Irish scenes and the bar is laminated with Irish news clippings.
Grafton's front room draws a talkative late-20s to 30s crowd with a male-to-female ratio tipped toward the males. In the backroom, a quieter group kicks back by the fireplace and munches on the menu's upscale pub picks. Grafton's crisp French fries dipped in curry sauce are just about worth getting out of bed for.
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.