Mickey Finn's in downtown Libertyville aptly describes itself as Lake County's oldest microbrewery. It's a comfortable, if sometimes boisterous, gathering place to go with family or friends for an artisanal beer or two. But the convivial spot has more to offer than that homemade brew.
Its still-evolving menu includes above-average pub grub and, depending when you visit, lively music.
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Mickey Finn's345 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville, (847) 362-6688, mickeyfinnsbrewery.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1:15 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
Motif: The popular restaurant and bar, founded in 1980 and acquired in 2004 by its current owner Brian Grano, moved a block south and opened at its present, larger location in early May. It's now housed in a fully remodeled building once occupied by an auto dealership. Walls in the rectangular barnlike venue show exposed brick and a high ceiling veined with beams and heating ducts. Nine flat-screen TVs tuned to sports channels hang from the rafters all along the rear of the long bar.
The main dining room and bar have combined seating for 210, while an adjoining umbrella-covered patio adds another 80 to the capacity. Meanwhile, a large banquet room with its own entrance in the back can be booked for private parties.
Food: One can make a meal of the appetizer menu, picking and choosing from Finn's signature hot wings and chips and salsa to cheesy artichoke dip and Bavarian pretzels. Sandwich, calzone and burger selections abound, including a well-made Pat E. Melt: a nine-ounce burger with American cheese and sauteed onions on marbled rye. Demand also is high for the kitchen's noteworthy thin-crust pizza, available in 10-, 14- and 16-inch sizes and with multiple topping options.
Fish-and-chip afficionados can order this all-you-can-eat Atlantic cod Friday night special with confidence. The fries are crispy and the coleslaw creamy. Other specials included a corned beef platter, center-cut sirloin filet, grilled Canadian salmon and lake perch po'boy. Calling to those with larger appetites were smoked brisket, breaded pork cutlet schnitzel and half of a free-range chicken. Lovin Oven Cakery supplies the restaurant with sweet treats -- such as the cheesecake and carrot cake muffins on the day we visited.
Crowd: Though the place doesn't formally take reservations, customers en route are invited to text their projected arrival times and get on a waiting list. Arriving a little after 5 p.m. on a recent Friday, we found the place already jam-packed with a multigenerational crowd, including couples with young children. Securing a table took about 15 minutes.
Service: The energetic, friendly staff operates under a full head of steam, whether it's taking food orders, filling drink orders or keeping water glasses from running dry. Takeout orders are accommodated, and the place delivers food to customers living in the immediate vicinity.
Music: Free live music by rock, acoustic and dance cover bands starts around 10:30 p.m. on Saturdays with occasional shows on Thursdays and Fridays. Check online for a list of upcoming guest performers. Kevin Baird and his band King are scheduled to play Sept. 27 and the Jamie Yolo Lono Band on Oct. 4.
Liquid consumption: Though the full-service bar offers specialty cocktails and a respectable selection of red and white wines, the house-brewed beers are the star.
Brewmaster Greg Brown typically has 13 beers on tap, including five of the microbrewery's own creation. A glass window toward the back entrance offers a good view of the processing plant. Two good choices are the Gudenteit-Hefeweizen, an aromatic unfiltered German-style summer wheat, and 847 Wheat Ale with its appealing 50/50 malt and hop balance. Serious consumers will want to consider a refillable growler to go.
Parking: There's street parking plus space in a lot on Church Street to the rear of the building.