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Saveur's new Chicago food issue lists eight Chicago "taverns" of note, three of which I'm familiar enough with to judge their judging.
* Cardozo's. Saveur's Terry Sullivan writes, "Cardozo's is a rarity: a neighborhood tavern right in the Loop, Chicago's downtown core. The nearly 90-year-old basement pub offers a full menu of hearty fare that includes everything from burgers to shrimp de jonghe. The place is open only on weekdays and, in true Chicago saloon tradition, serves free appetizers (buffalo wings and sausage and peppers, among others) during happy hour."
I love Cardozo's. If you took a Shoney's, put it ten feet underground so that cell phones don't work, and filled it with white-collar city employees shooting the shit over cheap beer, it would be Cardozo's. A real contrarian pick. I'm impressed.
* The Charleston. "Amid the gentrification that's transformed the Wicker Park neighborhood into one of the city's trendiest districts, this popular bar has retained its quirky, unpretentious feel. It has an honor system pool table (you plunk 50 cents into an old coffee can) and a taxidermied goat in the window (a gift from a bartender's friend)."
Unfortunate that they fail to note the weird, intimate "cave" in the back, but otherwise they're wise to include it on their list. Despite its location, it's the most pleasantly calm bar in the city. And it's already smoke-free.
* Jimmy's. "It's just across the street from the University of Chicago's campus, but don't expect drinking games at this Hyde Park stalwart—known to regulars as Jimmy's—which has been serving a sedate mix of students, faculty, and neighborhood locals for more than half a century. A bar menu offers burgers and hot and cold sandwiches."
The thing about Jimmy's is that it might not actually be a good bar, at least during peak hours. It's loud, infamously smoky, the bartenders pick the music (I'd guess Radiohead gets the most airtime), and it's not even cheap for the neighborhood. But if you live in Hyde Park, it is not yours to ask why.
Places I wish they'd included:
* The Falcon (Hyde Parkers are wary of this place after a gang member was rumored to have been shot in the face outside it, but they're missing good soul, banging hip-hop, cheap beer, and ready access to bad fast food.)
* The Pub (the University of Chicago's official bar, with one of the best beer selections in the city)
* Cal's (Loop punk bar/bike messenger bar, obviously a good idea)
* The Beachwood Inn (the other respectably modest bar in the Wicker Park/Bucktown inferno)