Some people seem all too eager to peg any drinking establishment without a cover charge or VIP room as a "dive." Lakeview's Side Street Saloon has all the markers of a true neighborhood bar, and though some might be tempted to align the SSS with the shadier sect of watering holes, one look at the menu is bound to cause a change of heart. You see, this well-loved North Side saloon serves up some first-rate grub.
When visions of bar food dance through one's head, they're typically dominated by the usual suspects: endless wings, greasy mozzarella sticks and peanuts by the bowlful. The tiny kitchenette flanking the bar at Side Street has an entirely different idea. Hearty sandwiches like black peppercorn pork on garlic bread, or a reuben served with potato pancakes meet classic entrees like spaghetti and meatballs to form a menu that never disappoints. Despite such inspired creations, the Saloon also has the good sense to appeal to the lowest common denominator—weekend drinkers on the prowl for a kick-ass burger. The juicy half-pounder here is grilled to order, served with a mountain of Cajun fries and is always just $3.50 on the weekends. Add a brewski from the extensive selection (20 beers on tap, 12 in bottles) and cheap dates just got a whole lot cheaper.
The food certainly keeps people coming back, but the friendly vibe of the Saloon is not to be overlooked; old books line the walls of the front room, tempting patrons to catch up on both Hemingway's words and vices. A pool table and dart board occupy the back room, with a well-stocked jukebox providing the soundscape. The more passively social will appreciate the big screen television, which is almost always tuned into a local game.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: K. Tighe