You're just as likely to see a loner doing crosswords at the bar as you are to hear sports fans cheering at games on-screen at Swig. Since taking over the old Ginbucks spot, Swig's owner aims to make this the friendliest (and cheapest) place on the block.
Sleek matte metal accents, exposed brick and a collection of modern-leaning local art give the neighborhood hangout a distinctly grownup feel. The staff is as sweet and capable as they come. Nightly drink specials guarantee you a $3 option ($4 will get you a martini on Tuesdays); otherwise, beers are $4 and cocktails $4-$7. On tap: Guinness, Stella, Pilsner Urquell and Hacker-Pschorr.
Lucky for you, the kitchen is open late. The menu ($8-$12, plus cheap daily specials) offers dressed-up bar food like crab cakes, avocado-laden taco salad and teriyaki beef skewers with wasabi-soy sauce; it also highlights comfort classics like meatloaf or the insanely creamy baked mac n' cheese. Vegetarians will have an easy time here, with options like the hummus-loaded wrap, Portobello burgers and veggie eggrolls. Make sure someone at your table orders the waffle fries: these little slices of heaven hit your plate straight out of the deep-fryer, with a flavor that even beats the ones you ate while waiting in line at Great America.
DJs spin eclectic but upbeat stuff (think hip-hop and house) on Friday and Saturday nights, and you can catch an acoustic performance some Sundays. Lunch is served on weekends only, and the sidewalk patio is open during good weather.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Julia Steinberger