Where to enjoy a wee bit of Scotland in Chicago

When you hear “Chicago”, the thought of Scotland probably doesn’t jump immediately to mind. Ireland, perhaps, and most definitely Poland.

But there’s a proud, long-standing Scottish community in Chicago, and there’s definitely ways to celebrate your heritage or love of all things Scottish in the Windy City.

Scottish immigrants have made the city their own over the years; they were particularly well-represented within the meatpacking industry that defined Chicago in the early part of the 20th century. Notable Scottish-Americans in Chicago include Robert Fergus, influential to the city’s printing industry; and Allan Pinkerton, who was the first police detective in Chicago. The Pinkerton National Detective Agency, which was founded in Chicago in 1850, was the forerunner for organizations like the FBI and CIA.

Scottish names are scattered across the local map as well – towns with names like Inverness, Midlothian, Bannockburn, and West Dundee. In fact, at least 195 communities, neighbourhoods, districts and suburban estates in greater Chicago can trace their names to either places in Scotland, or are named for famous Scots. You can even pay homage to one of Scotland’s favorite sons, the national poet Robert Burns, at his statue in Garfield Park, on the west side of the city.

Every summer, the Illinois St. Andrew Society – also known as the Chicago Scots – hosts the Scottish Festival and Highland Games, as well as the St. Andrew’s Day Gala and Feast of the Haggis, the Kilted Classic Golf Tournament, and Burns Night0. The Chicago Scots are the oldest nonprofit in Illinois, founded in 1845. The ISAS welcomes anyone “who is Scottish by birth, heritage, or simply inclination”; membership is free, although there are also paid membership levels.

While there are various mostly-British restaurants in Chicago that may offer a few Scottish dishes, there are two restaurants that are very Scottish indeed.

The first is Balmoral Restaurant, which is not in Chicago proper, but rather, the far western suburbs, located at 40W099 Illinois Route 64, in Campton Hills. Although it’s only been open a few years, it repeatedly ranks high in local “Best of…” readers’ polls. While their menu is limited, you simply cannot go wrong dining here, with selections ranging from their Highlander’s Cock-a-Leekie Soup, to Scottish salmon, to desserts like the Raspberry Cream Cranachan. Open for dinner nightly; 2-10pm on Sundays.

The other is the cozy and charming Duke of Perth pub, located at 2913 N. Clark Street, just south of W. Oakdale Ave. (Lincoln Park/Lakeview). They’re open nightly in the evenings; they open at noon on Saturday/Sundays. Their speciality is their all-you-can-eat fish fry (with chips, of course), but you can also be adventurous with menu items like their haggis burger. This is also an outstanding place to have a wee dram or two of whisky – they have an excellent selection (not to mention some solid local regional craft brews). Don’t take my word alone for it – Whisky Magazine certified them as a “Great Whisky Bar of the World” in 2006. In the winter, settle in near their fireplace and warm yourself inside and out.

The Duke of Perth is not the only place you can get your whisky (or whiskey) on, however. A few other places to enjoy a dram:

  • Delilah’s, 2771 N. Lincoln Ave., just south of Diversey (Lincoln Park/Lakeview). This much-beloved dive bar has more than 800 varieties of whiskey from around the world, as well as a few of their own.
  • Lady Gregory’s, 5260 N. Clark St. at W. Berwyn (Andersonville). This popular Irish pub has a solid menu, with over 300 whiskeys and a variety of draft and bottle beers; and it feels more like a literary supper club, unlike a lot of stereotypical Irish pubs. (On a side note, Andersonville was recently ranked # 2 on Lonely Planet’s “49 Coolest Neighborhoods in the World” list. This lively LGBTQ+ community on Chicago’s far north side is a great place to explore!)
  • Twisted Spoke, 501 N. Ogden Ave. at W. Grand Ave. (West Loop). Whether you call them a roadhouse or a biker’s bar, the Twisted Spoke has a bar loaded with some 600 whiskeys, as well as almost two dozen draft beers, many from the Midwest, plus a wide variety of bottled beers and ciders. Unfortunately, their menu has been trimmed down considerably during the pandemic, but you can’t go wrong with their burgers (a.k.a. “tallboys”).
  • Longman & Eagle, 2657 N. Kedzie Ave. (Logan Square). While also known for their delicious farm-to-table fare, L&E boasts more than 400 varieties – ranging from ones you can sample for just $3/shot, up to rare and well-aged classics.
  • There are two Chicago bars which are “partner bars” for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (out of 14 in the U.S.). Sadly, both of them are temporarily closed due to the pandemic. You can still shop at Fountainhead‘s (1966 W. Montrose, Lincoln Square/Ravenswood) Market. The other, Drumbar, located atop what is now the Gale Hotel (201 E. Delaware Place, Streeterville), is indefinitely closed.

And finally, if you really want to wear your Scottish-Chicago pride on your sleeve (or elsewhere), visit the Scotland Shop’s Illinois Tartan page. This attractive tartan, in the colors of the Chicago flag, was created for the Illinois St. Andrews Society, and adopted as the official tartan of the State of Illinois. The Scottish Shop also occasionally visits Chicago for pop-up events, such as the Scottish Festival and Highland Games.

The official Illinois tartan available through Scotlandshop.com

Welcome to Chicago for the 2017 NHL Draft

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So you’re coming to Chicago for the 2017 NHL Draft – welcome to the Windy City! Chicago is a city for sports fans, and be you a fan, sportswriter, or potential draftee, there’s plenty to see and do in Chicago beyond enjoying all that the NHL Draft has to offer around the United Center this weekend.


What to know about the United Center / NHL Draft

United Center: 1901 W. Madison

Draft times: Friday – Round 1, 6 p.m.; Saturday – Rounds 2-7, starting at 9 a.m.

Tickets: $10/day via Ticketmaster (Friday night sold out) – children under 36 inches in height do not need a ticket to attend the Draft.

How to get there: CTA bus line #20 – Madison; Blue line L (Illinois Medical District stop); Green line L (Ashland stop). Check out the CTA website for system maps and a travel time calculator. Parking for the event is $10/day; UC parking lots open at 2 p.m. on Friday, and 7 a.m. on Saturday.

Team stores: There’s a brand-new Madhouse Team Store at the UC that is open daily, or visit their store at 333 N. Michigan Ave. in the Loop/Mag Mile area.

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Fan Fest: The “Centennial Fan Arena” held in parking lot “C” (directly north of the UC on Madison Ave.) will give fans the opportunity to tour the Museum and video trucks, try out the Clear The Ice Zamboni VR Experience, get a picture with the Stanley Cup, and for youth hockey players to engage in clinics and games on a ball hockey pop-up rink. Other fan opportunities are available within the Atrium in the United Center. There will also be an Instant Prize Tower where you can scan your Fan Fest pass to see if you are an instant winner of NHL and Blackhawks swag. The Fan Fest will take place rain or shine.

  • Friday – 3 p.m. to 9 pm. (doors to UC open at 4 p.m.; Draft begins 6 p.m.)

Stanley Cup photo opportunity – 3 p.m. to 8 p.m

The band Neon Trees will play at 5 p.m.

  • Saturday – 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (doors to UC open at 7 a.m.; Draft begins 9 a.m.)

Stanley Cup photo opportunity – 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Blackhawks past/present players/staff who will be attending the Fan Fest are Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brian Campbell, Tony Esposito, Denis Savard, Eric Daze, Colin Fraser, Adam Burish, Chris Chelios, Pat Foley, John Wiedeman, Troy Murray and Jim Cornelison. (Subject to change.) Fans must activate their Fan Fest passes at draftfanfest.com in order to be eligible for limited photo and autograph opportunities.


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Beyond the United Center – Exploring Chicago

Of course, there are plenty of attractions to see around Chicago: starting with Cloud Gate – or as it’s more commonly called, ‘The Bean’ – and Millennium Park; the Art Institute; Navy Pier; etc. Get your stomach-dropping views of the Chicago skyline at Willis Tower’s Skydeck with its glass Ledges, or the Hancock’s 360Chicago.

Jump on a Divvy bike and explore the lakefront trail or The 606 (Chicago’s version of NYC’s High Line). Grab a CTA bus or the “L” trains to explore Chicago’s neighborhoods. Get your suntan on at one of Chicago’s many beaches. (North Avenue Beach is a local favorite for its movie-iconic views of Chicago’s skyline, and the rooftop bar at the beach house.)

Attempt to get a ticket for Hamilton (good luck), or catch some comedy at Second City or the IO. Peruse The Reader online or in print for the latest entertainment listings.


Where to Dine – Close to the United Center

West Randolph Street between N. Halstead and N. Ogden is known as “Restaurant Row” for the many, many restaurants that line the dozen or so blocks – not to mention that there’s a lot of great places just off Randolph. It’s within easy walking distance of the UC.

Kaiser Tiger – their slogan is “Sausage, Bacon, & Beer” – really, need I say more? Great beer garden (includes bocce ball, ping pong, and bags); open for lunch.
Green Street Smoked Meats – best BBQ in town.
Parlor Pizza Bar – wood oven pizzas and great patios (has a 2nd location in Wicker Park)
Grange Hall Burger Bar – fantastic farm-to-table burgers
Little Goat Diner, Duck Duck Goat, and The Girl & the Goat – this trio of Stephanie Izard restaurants are all fantastic. Little Goat is more casual; G&G upscale; DDG is Chinese.
Au Cheval – known on local ‘Best of…’ polls for their burgers
Momotaro – named one of the best ‘modern Japanese’ restaurants in the US
The Publican – casual lunch spot with fresh cut, quality meats
Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken – fancy and classic doughnut flavors (and obviously, chicken)
Bottom Lounge – solid American food and a performance venue
Wishbone – casual American dining

Off the general Randolph Street area, but still relatively close to the UC:

Twisted Spoke – they bill themselves as a “family friendly biker bar”. Great burgers/sandwiches, and if whiskey, bourbon, and scotch are your thing, it’s hard to beat their selection. Roof deck is wonderful in good weather!
La Scarola – cozy Italian fare
The Dawson – great patio, and modern American fare.

If you’re that anxious to try Shake Shack, there’s several around town, including a West Loop location.


Where to Dine – elsewhere in town 

As most people in town for the NHL Draft are probably staying somewhere in the general downtown area, I’m going to highlight a few places in the general downtown area or easily accessible via the L (line/stop noted).

Petterino’s – excellent, old school American classics in an atmosphere where you might expect to see The Godfather in the next booth over. (Loop)
RPM Italian – upscale modern Italian
El Hefe Super Macho Taqueria – Mexican with a sense of humor (River North)
Primehouse – best steaks in Chicago. (River North/Mag Mile)
The Kerryman –  Authentic Irish food, nice patio. (River North)
Chop Shop & 1st Ward – as the name implies, great meat. Thumbs up for brunch. (Wicker Park. Blue line to Damen)
Big Star – “Tacos, whiskey, and honky tonk”. Awesome tacos and super patio. (Also super busy on weekends.) (Wicker Park. Blue line to Damen.)
Lowcountry – Very casual seafood joint based on the idea of Southern fish boils. (Wrigleyville/Lakeview – Red/purple/brown line to Belmont, or Red line to Addison)


(Oh right, pizza)

A lot of first-time visitors to Chicago want to know “where’s the best pizza?” If you really want to try deep-dish, head to Lou Malnati’s (locations all over town) or Gino’s East.

For traditonal, thinner-crust pizza, I personally love Piece in Wicker Park (they’re also a brewpub and co-owned by Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen – Blue line L to Damen), Pizano’s in the Loop (get the buttercrust), or Gino’s East.


Beer pubs!

As the country has embraced a craft beer explosion, Chicago is no exception; there are many places to lift a pint of local craft beers. You’ll also find many of them sold in local grocers, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.

Finch Beer (Near West Side. Close to UC.)
Chaos Brew Club (West Town)
Forbidden Root Restaurant & Brewery (Noble Square/Ukrainian Village)
Haymarket Pub & Brewery (Randolph St/Restaurant Row)
Cruz Blanca (Randolph St/Restaurant Row) – Rick Bayless’s newest entry to his Chicago restaurants – brewery and taqueria
Vice District Brewing (South Loop/Near South Side)
Motor Row Brewing (Near South Side)
BaderBräu (Near South Side/Chinatown)
Alulu Brewpub (Pilsen)
Lagunitas Brewing (Pilsen)
Moxee BBQ & Cajun and Mad Mouse Brewery (University Village)
Hopewell Brewing (Logan Square)
Revolution Brewing (Logan Square)
Half Acre (North Center)
Begyle Brewing (North Center)
Dovetail Brewery (North Center)
Burnt City Brewing (Lincoln Park)
DryHop Brewers (Boystown)
Corridor Brewery & Provisions (Wrigleyville/Lakeview)
Band of Bohemia (Ravenswood)
Empirical Brewery (Andersonville)
Temperance Beer Co (Evanston)
Smylie Brothers Brewing (Evanston)

The Chicago Brew Bus also has weekend local brew pub crawls.


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What’s happening this weekend in Chicago 

Friday, June 23

Country LakeShake – 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Northerly Island, Museum Campus)
Chicago Ale Fest – 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Butler Field, Grant Park)
St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party – 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. (West Loop)
White Sox vs. Athletics – 7:10 p.m.

Saturday, June 24

Chicago Whiskey Wine & Spirits Beach Festival – 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Montrose Beach)
Chicago Food Truck Fest – 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. (South Loop)
White Sox vs. Athletics – 1:10 p.m.
Ravenswood On Tap (beer fest) – 1 p.m – 9 p.m. (Ravenswood)
Chicago Ale Fest – 2 p.m. – 6 p.m. (Butler Field, Grant Park)
St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party – 2 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. (West Loop)
Country LakeShake – 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Northerly Island, Museum Campus)
Chicago Zombie March – 3 p.m. – 5:30 pm (Loop; starts at The Bean)
Navy Pier – Aon Summer Fireworks – 10:15 p.m. (Navy Pier; viewable from many points on lakefront. Good views from Grant Park and Museum Campus.)

Sunday, June 25

Chicago Food Truck Fest – 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. (South Loop)
Chicago 48th Annual Pride Parade – kicks off at noon! One of the oldest and largest pride parades in the US! (Boystown/Lakeview/Lincoln Park)
Ravenswood On Tap (beer fest) – 1 p.m – 6 p.m.
White Sox vs. Athletics – 1:10 p.m.
Country LakeShake – 3 p.m. – 10 p.m. (Northerly Island, Museum Campus)