The first time I visited the Chicago Ale House, I decided it needed to make up its mind. Was it a beer bar? Sports bar? Neighborhood restaurant? Family joint? It seems that the owners have leaned a little further into the "beer connoisseur" category, and the place is much better because of it. My first visit was full of high hopes: Would the new Lincoln Square offering stand up to places like Hopleaf
, Map Room
, Kuma's Corner
? Previously, the answer would be no—but it's gotten much better, I'm glad to say.
The beer list has expanded to include more specialty microbrews (Allagash, Sierra Nevada, Arcadia) rather than the macrobrews that used to populate the taps. Instead of sticking with the Miller Lite and Old Style selections (they're still available in bottles, don't worry), it skews more obscure. For the less-than-beer-literate among your party, it very smartly offers a beer sampler; take your pick from six different tap beers for up to $12.75, depending on your choices.
The menu has also come together. Owned by the group behind Cy's Crab and Steak House, the bar still offers up the filet mignon and Thai dishes that have never seemed to fit the focus of the place, but the menu has adjusted to aim toward better bar food, sandwiches and the like. With appetizers starting at $5, sandwiches running $7-$10 and the most expensive entree reaching $20, at least the prices are consistently reasonable across the brew-and-eats board.
Comfortable booths populate the expansive space with high ceilings, with plenty of floor space for strollers; numerous flat-panel TVs broadcast ball games, and a huge projection display hangs above the pool table. Now a welcome addition to the Lincoln Square neighborhood, Chicago Ale House has certainly made some changes for the better.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Karl Klockars