Sandwiched between a gas station and a car lot, Union Ale House in Prospect Heights is easy to miss if you're driving by. But this family-owned spot, which took over Runway's' former location in June, is worth seeking out for its high-quality food and beer.
Motif: The new owners, who also run Rocky Vanders in Prospect Heights, completely remodeled the space, but kept the decor simple. Neon beer signs line the walls and 20 50-inch TVs are tuned to sports. The dining room sports turquoise and red booths and long wooden tables with fans to keep the space cool.
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Union Ale House1211 S. Wolf Road, Prospect Heights, (847) 947-8175
Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Crowd: Customers here range from 22 to 75, with the bar drawing a solid after-work and dinner crowd. The establishment aims to cater to families by offering daily food deals like $8.95 all-you-can-eat pasta on Wednesdays and half-price pizza Thursdays. Daily $7.95 lunch specials bring in plenty of local business people. Bears games are already booking up with plenty of reservations.
Food: The bar doesn't have a microwave or freezer and all the dishes are made in-house. The chef calls on his Southern roots to prepare dishes like a hearty, but not too spicy gumbo ($3-$4) loaded with big pieces of sausage, chunks of chicken, rice, celery, tomato and green peppers. The pulled pork sliders ($9) are delicious, but extremely messy with the meat piled high and prone to gush out when you take a bite. The Tokyo shrimp ($10) is another great starter, resembling shrimp corn dogs served with a spicy dipping sauce. If you're looking for something heartier, you can order macaroni and cheese ($10) made with plenty of your choice of toppings including jalapeņo, broccoli and mushrooms. Even if you're not ordering any food, you can snack on a basket of their homemade garlic roasted chips at the bar.
Liquid consumption: Union Ale House boasts an excellent selection of beers from local breweries including Church Street Brewing Company in Itasca, Wild Onion Brewery in Barrington and Chicago's Goose Island. The beer list will change seasonally, but you can always order a flight to try the newest offerings. Daily drink specials include $2.50 domestic bottles Mondays, $5 glasses of wine Wednesdays and $4 select shots on Fridays.
Service: A bartender quickly greeted me when I came in, and my dining room server was also very attentive and friendly, happy to chat about her favorite dishes and various beers on the menu.
Music: You can belt out your favorite tunes at Friday night karaoke.
Parking: The bar offers a small free lot.
Overall: Union Ale House offers food good enough to keep you fueled through any game and a great variety of brews to complement the eats.