Elburn used to be a quintessential small town -- a modern-day "Mayberry," if you will, that rolled up the sidewalks at night. Well, no more. There's a thriving bar scene along Route 47, and one of the hot spots is Eddie Gaedel Pub and Grill.
Opened in May 2013 by owners who have been in the restaurant business since 1982, Eddie Gaedel is a small, cozy place to enjoy craft beers and upgraded bar food. It's named after the Chicago-born 3-foot-7-inch pinch hitter who went to bat as a publicity stunt for Bill Veeck's St. Louis Browns in 1951. (A bit of local trivia: Eddie Gaedel served as the Grand Marshal for the 1951 Elburn Days parade.)
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Eddie Gaedel's Pub and Grill117 N. Main Street (Route 47), Elburn, (630) 365-9938, eddiegaedelpubandgrill.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday
Motif: The look of the space is casual. Semi-exposed stone walls and an "antiqued" wood-top bar lend an air of comfort. But expect a tight fit between the tables and bar seating. Customers seem to accept the fact that everyone will be rubbing elbows -- and shoulders -- on busy nights.
Service: Eddie Gaedel's friendly, young staff has a good knowledge of the menu and drinks.
Liquid consumption: A rotating selection of craft brews are on tap, including Revolution, Two Brothers, Bell's and Lagunitas. Bottle selections include varieties from those breweries as well as Dark Horse, Firestone, Allagosh, Goose Island and traditional American classics like Bud and Miller. The bartender handpicks up-and-coming craft brews for special pour evenings on Wednesday.
Food: The menu is impressive and expansive, considering the bar's size. Start your night with a large selection of appetizers such as jalapeņo bacon poppers, wings, loaded tots or beer nuggets. You can go light with a salad or dig into one of many sandwich options, including a rib-eye steak served with Swiss cheese and grilled onions, the Maxwell Street Polish Sausage or the Black Forest ham panini.
Burgers are of the half-pound variety, served on a trendy pretzel bun. Feel extremely hungry and competitive? Try the Giant Eddie ($17.95) -- two half-pound, triple-cheese burgers with bacon and all the trimmings, served inside a grilled cheese panini with a side of tater tots. Finish this monster and get a free Eddie Gaedel shirt.
There's an all-day Friday special of all-you-can-eat Lagunitas beer-battered fish fry and other food specials throughout the week.
Another option -- and a favorite of mine -- is to order pizza from across the street since Eddie Gaedel's owners also have been the operators of Paisano's Pizza & Grill since 2003. This is classic Chicago thin-crust pizza (the stuff I was raised on!). And there's nothing better than the simple sausage pizza -- fresh chunks of savory Italian sausage on a slightly crispy crust with a generous helping of cheese and the perfect amount of sauce. Bar staff will happily take your Paisano's order and call it in for you. Italian beef, Italian sausage and combo sandwiches are also available, as well as pasta dishes.
Crowd: Patrons generally fall in the 30s-to-50s age range.
Parking: There is parking along Main Street plus a small free lot just to the north.
Overall: A road trip out to Elburn isn't just to stock up on Ream's bratwursts anymore. Eddie Gaedel Pub and Grill is a great destination for quality food and beer.