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Article posted: 12/14/2012 5:00 AM

Diners and drinks right at home at Toby Keith's


The first Illinois location of growing mega-bar chain Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill opened in August at the new MB Financial Park at Rosemont, offering a new hot spot for local country fans. Even if you're not a lover of the music, Toby Keith's is a hopping space where you can order up a huge beer or some shots and watch sports or just the crowd.

Motif: Lest you forget whom the place is named for, the wood plank and brick walls are covered with photos of country star Toby Keith along with beer signs and some decorations that just celebrate American pride like a giant Ford logo. The massive 35,000-square-foot space is divided into a variety of zones depending on what you're looking for.

Diners and drinkers can grab a space around the bar and watch sports on one of the TVs dangling from the giant American flag guitar that hangs overhead. The back area features a huge stage and dance floor served by two more bars. A corner space offers darts and hunting, golf and boxing video games. There's also plenty of room for private parties, with reserved couch space on the first floor and rooms upstairs with a great view of the stage that are equipped for buffet service. An upstairs patio will expand the space's capacity even further come spring.

Crowd: Despite how massive the bar is, it was nearly full when we visited Saturday night, with the crowd's ages ranging from late 20s to 60s. Dress is eclectic, including plenty of jeans and baseball hats, cowboy attire and people dressed up for a night out.

Service: Known as "whiskey girls," Toby Keith's attractive bartenders and servers sport short shorts, cowboy boots and black tank tops. They're also very attentive and friendly. We were greeted and handed menus as soon as we sat down by a bartender ready to take an order immediately, but happy to give us time to peruse. When she was busy and it looked like we wanted a refill, another bartender quickly stepped in and was just as nice.

Food: The menu largely offers standard bar fare like potato skins, mozzarella sticks and bacon cheeseburgers, with a splash of Southern fare like fried okra and some oddities like deep fried Twinkies.

Liquid consumption: Toby Keith's signature drink is a Mason jar filled with beer from a solid draft list including Magic Hat #9 and Fat Tire. You'll pay a premium for the novelty though, with even jars of normally less pricey beers like Sam Adams Seasonal running $12.

If you're not a beer fan, the bar has cocktails and shooters with thematic names like the Cowboy Cadillac (a blend of Jack Daniels, triple sec, lemonade and sour mix) or the Southern Pride (a shot of Southern Comfort and peach schnapps).

Music: You can catch live country acts every Tuesday through Saturday night and join the performance on Monday by singing karaoke onstage with a band. There's a $5 cover fee after 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, though if you get in early for dinner you can stick around to see the music for free.

Parking: There's free parking to be found nearby, but navigating the Financial Park complex by car can be tricky.

Overall: If you're a little bit country, Toby Keith's is the place to be.

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