When my brother and I play the "one day I want to" game, we end up at the same place: behind the bar of a beer-centric restaurant. The type of place that features artisan brews from both down the street and that small mountain town, with a menu that brings global touches to familiar fare. The type of place where friends can cozy up to the bar and join us for a pint and nachos when they get off work just as easily as family could settle in for an unrushed dinner.
Turns out our dream place already exists, and it's called Park Tavern.
Park Tavern5433 Park Place, Rosemont
(847) 349-5151; parktavernrosemont.com
Cuisine: Ecclectic American
Setting: Spacious room anchored by grand bar
Entrees: $11 to $33
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Wednesday; 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday to Saturday
Flanking the quad in Rosemont's MB Financial Park entertainment district, Park Tavern draws diners and beer enthusiasts from around the suburbs and city and even the country. Located just a hop, skip and a jump from O'Hare, it makes a nice respite for thirsty travelers who have a few hours between flights. No taxi needed: There's a free shuttle between the CTA's Blue Line Rosemont stop and the entertainment district.
With its movie theater, comedy club, bowling lanes and music venue (including free outdoor summer concerts), the entertainment district provides plenty of reasons to wander into Rosemont. And with its vast beer selection, urban vibe and eclectic menu, Park Tavern gives you plenty of reasons to pick this as your dinner spot before exploring the rest of the sites.
On a recent Friday evening, we found a lively crowd filling the large space. Brick walls, pendant lighting, heavy wood tables and a bar large enough to support dozens of tap handles fill the room. Because of the high ceilings and open design, this is not a spot for quiet conversation, though a few booths along the edge provided a bit more intimate feel.
We grabbed a seat at the bar for a pre-dinner quencher and were promptly attended to. A request for white wine was met with a generous pour that lasted through the appetizers and salad. It takes a bit of time to peruse the beer menu, and if you're unsure, tasters are happily provided. With more than 30 beers on tap, from local brews like Two Brothers and Metropolitan to those further afield like New Holland and Lagunitas, there's something to please every palate. Park Tavern offers handcrafted cocktails as well.
The dinner menu is also expansive without being too overwhelming.
We couldn't resist the Animal Tots just to see what they were. Homemade tater tots get nacho-platter treatment with pulled pork, cheese curds and a sauce made from Bell's Kalamazoo brew. These could be a meal on their own. The deviled eggs likewise caught my eye because I don't think I've ever seen this picnic fave on a restaurant menu. Served with bits of spicy chorizo crumbled on top, these were devilish indeed.
The spinach salad, tossed with dried cranberries, apples, almonds and goat cheese, provided a light bridge to the rest of the meal. Had I decided to make a meal of the salad course, I would have opted for the Chicken Cornbread salad that I saw delivered to another table. A heap of crumbled cornbread, cannellini beans, mildly spiced shredded chicken, romaine and fried sage tied together with a smoky bacon vinaigrette sounds like a filling fall lunch to me.
Dinner plates range from street vendor tacos, chicken, brisket and ribs smoked on site, hefty sandwiches, burgers and a handful of steak and seafood options.
Feeling pretty full already, we stayed with the sandwiches and burgers thinking these would be lighter than a peppercorn-and-bacon-crusted N.Y. strip or the horseradish-rubbed salmon.
But when the Mexibano sandwich and Green Chili Burger arrived we realized eating light was futile and eagerly dug in. The Mexibano featured richly smoked and shredded pork, bacon and chihuahua cheese and a pile of cilantro-studded rice on the side.
The burger was satisfying as well, with roasted green chilis and cheese curds topping the well-done burger. The stuffed burgers are usually cooked to medium-well, but since our request was for well-done, the stuffing became a topping.
A side of creamy mac and cheese made this a showstopping combination.
Yet we couldn't stop there; the gooey butter cake called our name. Arriving warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this cake had a crisp top and warm soft inside and had me uttering sounds usually reserved for chocolate confections.
Our waitress that evening was friendly and helpful, but the busers need to step it and keep pace with the rest of the Park Tavern staff.
Speaking of on top, in warmer weather a rooftop patio provides a nice place to have a drink and listen to the park's free concerts. That's even better than in my dreams.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.