Hours: Lunch, dinner: seven days
Open late: Saturday till 3, other nights till 2
The place to enjoy great beer and good food cooked with great beer.
Michael Ropers Hopleaf has always been a great bar with a few tragic flaws. The staggering selection of beers with an emphasis on Belgians can be daunting for novices to navigate without assistance, and occasionally stony bartenders are sometimes unwilling or too overwhelmed to provide it. A victim of the Check, Please! phenomenon, it can get so unbearably crowded on weekends that it's advisable to avoid it entirely. An extremely detailed beer menu helps too, and theres no place like this one to explore the deep Belgian tradition of pairing great beer with food—not to mention good food cooked with great beer, the most celebrated and enjoyable example being the mussels steamed in Wittekerke white ale, with long, crispy frites and a tangy aioli. But one of the coolest things about Hopleaf is its commitment to the proper way of drinking—many drafts are poured in their own glasses, designed to accentuate the special qualities of each. The kitchen's open till midnight on weekends, Monday-Thursday till 11 PM.
Payment Type: Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Ever since I moved here in 1996, Hopleaf has been my favorite beer bar in Chicago. It’s most famous for its fetishistic selection of Belgian beers—more than a third of the two downstairs bars' 64 taps on any given day, plus the majority of its frankly intimidating bottle menu—but you’ll reliably find rare and extraordinary American crafts too. The food is great, though not exactly cheap—I'm especially fond of the mussels and the grilled CB&J sandwich (cashew butter, fig jam, and raclette cheese), which comes with house-made potato chips and Stilton mac and cheese. Even the music is classy—mostly vintage jazz, blues, and country—and never too loud. Ever since Hopleaf expanded south into the old La Donna restaurant space, the bar and kitchen have opened earlier, at noon every day, and the ridiculous crowding on weekends has been somewhat relieved. The expansion added 20 beer taps—bringing the total to 68, counting the upstairs bar—and eight wine taps. —Philip Montoro