Though it has been open since 1996, Jak's is one of those places that has long flown under the radar. With one of the largest draft beer selections in the city, a friendly staff and plenty of entertainment options, Jak's charms more than offset its design shortcomings and less than stellar location, and definitely warrants a visit.
Jak's is located a block west of the Greektown's restaurant row at the corner of Jackson and Peoria in a 1904 mid-rise that is a fine example the Chicago School of architecture—if only the classic styling translated as well indoors... If a cool loft space and a TGI Friday's fell in love and had children, you'd have Jak's. The spacious open floor-plan, with the prerequisite brick and exposed beams, starts off promising. The burnt orange booths, grandmotherly fixtures and many-sectioned seating areas leave a something to be desired. At least the (knowledgeable) bartenders don't wear flair.
On the plus side, there are numerous TVs to take in the game, a three-sided gas fireplace to warm your bones, a pool table in the back room and one of the largest collections of beer handles in North America. On the down side, there's Golden Tee. Pass the hostess stand and head for the elongated bar or cocktail tables and settle in for a few minutes with the beer list.
With 40 beers on tap, Jak's ranks an impressive third for most in the entire city behind only Chicago Ale House (58) and Hopleaf (41). With a selection that changes regularly, even the bar's website can't keep up, but generally expect an excellent variety with a concentration on American craft brews and Belgian drafts. If decisions aren't your thing, every beer is available in a $2 sample size or the house beer flight of five four-ounce selections will set you back $6.50. If you hit on something you like, every beer is also available by the pitcher. Bottles and cans are not available. Overall, you'll find some values like Point beer for $3 a pint, but expect to pay a fair price for some sensational suds. That changes twice a year during Jak's semi-annual Humulus Lupulus beer tasting, where a selection of up to 20 seasonal and specialty beers and a full buffet are yours for a paltry $15.
Jak's is a sibling of Roscoe Village's classic Village Tap, so you can be assured that the elevated bar food, which runs from pizza to sandwiches to ribs, will rate high in quality. Accordingly, Jak's does a steady lunch and happy hour trade, but things begin to taper off as the night wears on. In a sign that they need a few more neighbors in the neighborhood, Jak's doesn't open until 4pm on Saturday and Sunday, so make your college and pro football plans elsewhere. This also explains Jak's midnight last call during the week and at 11pm on Sundays.
At one mile east of the United Center, Jak's is a decent choice for a pre/post-game drink, but it's not the closest. If you're heading to Greektown for some saganaki, a pint of Pauwel Kwak might not be foremost on your mind. And after dark, it's your guess whether you'll see a dog walker or a tumbleweed heading down the street. Still, for an A-List beer selection and the food to back it up, Jak's is definitely worth checking out. If you like Jak's, you might want to stop by nearby Beer Bistro, Clark Street Ale House in River North or the original John Barleycorn Memorial Pub in Lincoln Park. For more information, visit Jak's website. Burp.
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– written by Randy Kohl
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