The 2014 Fish Fry Season got off to a great start this past Friday at St. Andrew Parish. Much like last year, the fish was provided by New England Seafood Co. which so far has been the best fish at any Chicago fish fry I’ve attended. In addition to the fish, there were Mac & Cheese baskets and Girl Scout cookies for sale.
For $10 you got a basket of fries and a large portion of fried cod or a basket of Mac & Cheese. The crowd came and went throughout the evening but the food line wasn’t too long. All of the fish frying was done by a group of men drinking beer.
The turn out was great, we had around 20 people in our group, taking over several tables. The beer selection was ample for a BYOB. To top things off, our tables were near a gaggle of about 20 children running around and throwing water bottles with reckless abandon.
This year’s annual hockey trip didn’t include any travel for me but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any snow. I believe the game being at Solider Field is what swayed our decision not to mention the local beer scene. This is 7th year of doing sports trips and the 5th year of hockey trips the previous being Washington 2010, Boston 2011, Philadelphia 2012 and Pittsburgh 2013.
Stadium Series at Solider Field: Blackhawks – Penguins
The game itself was somewhat of a disaster. The weather conditions were appalling which made the quality of the game even worse. A snow storm began about an hour before the opening face-off and never really let up. Each stoppage of play consisted of 10 minutes or more of ice maintenance and snow shoveling. I believe there were two goals scored by the defenses on their own goalies and the Blackhawks dominated the game from about 5 minutes in and won 5-1 (the 1 Pens goal was scored by Chicago’s Brent Seabrook). You couldn’t see the puck moving at all, just the snow drifting as each pass glided aimlessly.
Our plan of attack for getting to Solider Field was to head down to Reggies on the outskirts of Chinatown and take their shuttle bus to the game. Reggies was completely packed but we managed to share a table with some people on the enclosed roof deck or we would have been in trouble. They had live music downstairs but you couldn’t really get 10 feet into the bar, that’s how many people were there. The shuttle worked out really well, dropping us off south of the stadium leading up to the main entrance.
Longman & Eagle
Friday we started our day off in Logan Square at Longman & Eagle for breakfast. There wasn’t too much of a crowd and we were able to get a table in the back for five people without a wait.
Next we headed over to Revolution Brewery where I tried my first smoked beer or Rauchbier style; Chicago Smoke. As Josh said, it tastes like a campfire. I’ve been off the Revolution wagon for some time now but they had several new beers at the brewery that I enjoyed including Juxebox Hero and Riot their current Pilsner. At Revolution we managed to get the front corner section near the fireplace and setup shop. Getting a cab in the middle of the day out of Logan Square was not an easy task.
Half Acre Beer Company
After finally tracking down a cab we headed to Half Acre Brewing Company in Lincoln Square. We lucked out again in getting seats with one table being open when we arrived. I had previously experienced most of the selection at Half Acre except for High Timber which was their English Bitter. It was good but I mainly stuck to the Heyoka and Daisy Cutter. Half Acre doesn’t have food but they do carry a stack of menus for restaurants that deliver in the area. We ordered a bunch of empanadas from 5411: Gourmet Empanands which kept us rolling. We picked up a bomber of Shewolf for the road from the retail store since they didn’t have it in the tap room.
Bottles & Cans
After Half Acre we decided to stop by Bottles & Cans on the way back to my place. I’m always impressed by their selection, including their mix and match 6-packs. Amongst others we grabbed a DirtWolf from Victory Brewing and some Abrasive Ale by Surly Brewing Company, neither of which I had tried yet.
After regrouping at my place for the afternoon we headed up to Uptown for dinner at Hopleaf. The wait for a table at this point was a round 2 hours but again we managed to get seats at the bar and just eat from there. I hand Maine Brewery’s Lunch which is an IPA, again a beer I’ve never heard of but came highly recommended. Hopleaf’s food was perfect even if the chicken took 3 times longer than the steak.
Against good advice we headed to Carol’s Pub to round out our night. Carol’s is a Country & Western bar with a random clientele. I’m pretty sure if you get the corner seats at the bar closest to the door you’re allowed to charge a cover to everyone else who comes in. The doormen seemed a lot more like regular clients than employees. Pitchers of Old Style were going for $15 which seemed insane even at the time. I’m not sure I would ever need to go back.
Saturday morning after tossing a handful of brunch ideas around we came back full circle to my choice from the day before and stayed in Lakeview for Dryhop Brewers. We had a little bit of a wait considering our group size and how small Dryhop physically is. I think Dryhop’s food is probably better than any of the other breweries in town, their beer can be hit or miss though. I’m partial to a couple of their regulars such as Batch 001 but we made sure to try two of their new beers: Snuffleupagus Is A Muppet India Pale Saison and Snuffleupagus IS NOT A Muppet. I preferred the IS NOT. But once against the food was great.
Most everyone headed to the airport around noon on Sunday but Justin had a late flight and we decided to check out downtown. Most of the trip was spent in neighborhoods on the North Side, so to see the center of the city we hit up the Signature Room atop the Hancock Building for a drink, which looks more and more run down every year, and then we had lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern below Michigan Avenue.
* The weather was really just brutal. Julie had suggested we take cardboard because it keeps people warm on the streets. I thought this was amusing until we got to the stadium and I saw people going through the empty boxes outside the concession stand. I joined in and grabbed us each a strip for our feet and it made a world of difference. About every 10 minutes we had to dust the snow off ourselves as it accumulated. We made a decision after the first intermission that if we took off right then we could make it to a bar before the second period had finished and watch the rest of the game.
**The View From My Seat