Originally opened as Black Beetle, today's Beetle Bar & Grill is like its cousin taverns, California Clipper and Continental, in that it gives the Neuvo-Bohemians of East Humboldt Park a regular place to hang. A good selection of bellywash and pub grub is only eclipsed by the slew of daily specials, drawing loyalty from the neighborhood as well as the more adventurous from around the city.
The Beetle can be found on a lonely stretch of Chicago Avenue, on the northwest corner at Rockwell, and across from a facility that recycles wooden pallets. The bar is housed within the base of a classic, three-story Chicago brownstone. Since it opened, the metal grating has come off the plate-glass windows overlooking both Chicago and Rockwell, which makes the place a lot more appealing from the outside.
Step through the wooden double doors and you'll find a warm atmosphere within. A mix of hardwood and red & black linoleum stretches through both sides of the bar, as does the tin ceiling. Low-slung tables with red candleholders can be found in the front section of the room and is the best spot if you're there to eat. Otherwise, head to the wooden bar that runs long the west side of the room, where you'll find patrons perched in high-backed, black vinyl barstools. Behind the bar, an impressive array of booze is set in front of mirrors and under a classic wooden bar back with beveled glass back-lit in red to match the string lights. In summer, a tiny sidewalk café offers beer drinking al fresco.
Since new ownership took over, the menu at Beetle has been upgraded and now features six specialty burgers, including the Trucker (topped with smoked bacon, aged cheddar and a fried egg), and the Black & Bleu (lightly blackened with smoked bacon, caramelized onions and crumbled bleu cheese). Pizza is the other specialty toppings ranging from shiitake and crimini mushrooms, to chicken pesto, to buffalo chicken, to barbecue pulled pork. A good selection of appetizers, sandwiches and salads rounds out the menu along with chocolate crepes and a seasonal selection for dessert. Lunch is served from 11am Friday and brunch at the same time on weekends. To wash it all down, the Beetle offers a strong selection with eleven beers on tap, including local faves Half Acre and Two Brothers, 38 more in bottles, and a dozen wines by the glass. Daily food & drink specials are detailed on a large chalkboard hanging over the kitchen at the north end of the room. For entertainment, you'll find a few TVs and a pool table located around an exposed brick wall divider with portals similar to the ones found at Bricks, near not one but two flavors of ATM.
All of the above attracts a fairly scruffy, post-Ukie Village crowd, clad mostly in jeans, t-shirts, loungewear, sporting the requisite tattoos, piercings, intriguing facial hair, and a mellow disposition eased even further by food & drink. While Humboldt Park is getting better, I still recommend you drive to the bar, as it's unlikely to find a cab on the street, parking is generally plentiful and the 'hood is still a bit rough compared to most other parts of the Near West Side.
Though beetles are not what you would necessarily want to see or think about, when you're hungry or longing for a pint, Beetle Bar & Grill should be particularly if you live in Humboldt Park or are looking for a new favorite watering hole. Not a bad start for owner Kitt Swan, once the manager at Northside, from whose owners she bought The Beetle. For more information, check out the Beetle website, and remember: "One beetle recognizes another" (Irish proverb).
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