For a casual, laid-back night on the town, you can't go wrong with a good ol' bar and grill. The more you drink, the more you want to eat; the more you stuff your face, the more you need to wash it down.
Four Corners Tavern Group knows how to work this crowd-pleasing combo at its four neighborhood hits: Schoolyard Tavern & Grill, Gaslight Bar & Grille, Brownstone Tavern & Grill and Sidebar Grille. Can they keep the magic alive at Lakeview's new Kirkwood Bar & Grill -- (Click here for address, phone number, maps and more)?
Inside: You won't recognize the former Pops for Champagne/Star Bar address. About the only thing left intact is the corner seating nook with fireplace from the Star Bar side; the bar's been moved to the opposite wall. Gone is the stage that once hosted jazz acts at Pops; another bar keeps the brews coming. The entire space--two separate rooms joined by a hallway in the front--is decked in woodwork and outfitted with large chandeliers. There are dozens of flat-screen TVs so you never have to miss a play. Huskers and Hoosiers fans will be especially happy about that, as the bar flies a flag for the University of Nebraska and Indiana University.
Drinks: Sip on everything from made-to-order martinis to cheap brews. Drafts include standard domestic lights as well as craft beers like Fat Tire ($4.50). Bottle options range from Delirium Tremens ($8) to super-chill Old Style tall-boy cans ($3). Wines, available by the glass and the bottle, cover the basic varietals ($7-$9 glass; $26-$36 bottle).
Eats: Fans of the Four Corners group's other spots will find the same food faves, including the Skillet Cookie ($7.50) dessert. Kirkwood's Indiana allegiance comes through in the Bobby Knight-inspired filet mignon sandwich, The General ($9.50).
We had a mix-and-match meal, sampling a thick, tomato-y chicken tortilla soup ($3 cup; $5 bowl); uber-cheesy mac and cheese ($4 small; $6 large); a so-so selection of mini-wiches (three for $6) that had more bun than meat; and our fave, the buffalo rolls ($7.50), sauced strips of chicken stuffed in a wonton roll and served with blue cheese dipping sauce.
There really aren't a lot of surprises on the menu, but the food is tasty. And what is it about tater tots ($3.50) that's so comforting? Mmm, nostalgia. However, we weren't as pleased with our black bean burger ($8), which had flavor potential but was undercooked and pretty pasty.
Crowd: This strip of Sheffield Avenue is starting to look like more and more like a dressed-up, somewhat more mature Wrigleyville. It's a handy spot for nearby DePaul students, so expect a fairly young crowd with lots of energy. (We nearly had a run-in with some over-served frat boys who were anxious to steal our seats before we finished our meal.) Weeknights could be prime time for more reserved Lakeview neighbors.
Guys and girls both don their sports jerseys of choice, so don't be shy to show your true colors. On the weekends, dress it up a bit, though keep it casual and stick to jeans.
Service: We were impressed with our poised and polite waitress. Despite a packed house, she was attentive and on-the-ball. By its fifth go-round, it's clear the Four Corners group knows how to run a place like a well-oiled machine.
Bottom line: Tasty, above-average bar food hits the spot, reasonably priced drinks go down easy, and the abundance of TVs has sports fans cheering: Looks like the Four Corners Tavern Group has scored a fifth hit.
Karen Budell is the metromix nightlife producer. Originally published Jan. 10, 2007.