2934 N. Sheffield Ave. (2900N, 1000W)
Chicago, IL 60657
If you've ever wondered where Lakeview Trixies and Chads go during the week, you've found it – the Kirkwood Bar & Grill, to indulge in fishbowl drinks in the South Beach-like beer garden in summer. You'll also find them here on weekends, especially for Hoosier and Cornhusker football games in Fall that are broadcast on no less than 29 plasmas, and to lounge by the fireplace after the sporting events have wrapped up for the night, only to be replace by a different, more lascivious type of game. Throw in above-average pub grub and you've got a solid replacement for predecessor Pops for Champagne (now located in River North) and another hit from your friends at the Four Corners Tavern Group, though many are sure to miss the lingerie parties of Star Bar...
Kirkwood forms the base of a brick three-flat with kind of an annex that takes up the lot next door, and is located at the northwest corner of Sheffield and Oakdale, almost kitty-corner to Vaughan's Pub and Mad River. The façade of Kirkwood is comprised of wooden paneling set into graystone walls, with windows that open up in summer. Step inside and you'll find the main barroom to your right and more of a back room to your left. The main room, formerly the Pops for Champagne space, consists of a long wooden bar that runs most of the length of the northern wall, an arched ceiling that gives a nice airy sense, large ornate light fixtures, and the afore-mentioned banks of flat panel televisions that range in size from large to enormous. While Indiana and Nebraska fans will appreciate being catered to during football and basketball season, the TVs are switched off to create a more loungey vibe, similar to what you'll find at Nick's Uptown. The joint gets packed at this time, so make sure you get there before 9:00pm if you want to get a seat or avoid the velvet rope line outside (even on Thursday nights), otherwise you'll have to elbow your way to the bar through a packed throng. The loungey vibe can be found almost anytime in Kirkwood's backroom, formerly the Star Bar space, which features low-slung wooden tables and black banquettes that run along the large stone-tiled walls and a fireplace in the corner under a ceiling with white, back-lit panels. Cocktail tables up front provide a nice view onto the Sheffield foot traffic, except when they are moved out of the way for the occasional band that plays on a portable stage.
Beyond the main room is Kirkwood's spacious beer garden, about the size of those found at John Barleycorn's, Weeds Tavern and Charlie's Ale House. You'll find a beer tub out here as well as waitress service at the wooden tables with wicker chairs, cocktail tables with high-backed metal chairs and more wicker chairs around a few coffee table-like tables in the rear of the patio. The beer garden is nicely designed with a cement floor lined with brick, trellis and flowers around the southern and western, green-painted walls, and small shrubs along northern wall. This is where you want to be at night during the summer. The post-college talent out here is quite good, kind of like an outdoor Belly's East or Duffy's West.
If your appetite goes beyond just eye candy, Kirkwood offers a menu that predominantly consists of $9-$13 sandwiches and a handful of appetizers and salads. The "seasoned fries" are nothing short of addictive, the French dip sandwich was very tasty, and the "skillet cookie" topped with ice cream is considered just short of orgasmic for many. Click here for the full menu. They only serve Blue Moon on tap in the beer garden, but offer the rest in bottles and the bar offers 10 in total. The Old Style tall-boys for $3 is a steal but $8 for a Bloody Mary isn't going to help you pay off that new condo... A handful of white and red wines by the glass are also available. The real story: $25 brightly-colored fishbowl drinks accompanied by a dozen straws help those teetering on the edge of sobriety plunge into the inevitable abyss of a kind of drunkenness that those who remember Bamboo Bernie's and Brother Jimmy's can appreciate.
"Smells like an axe bodyspray explosion in here on a Thursday night."
– Courtney C. on Yelp (May 4, 2007)
The Kirkwood Bar & Grill is the latest post-college, upscale sports bar from the Four Corners Tavern Group, who also owns Brownstone, Sidebar, Schoolyard, Gaslight, and WestEnd. Like the Brownstone with its predecessor Benedict's, the Kirkwood project is an impressive renovation from the Star Bar and Pops for Champagne venues, thanks to the impressive work by Ray Wray Inc., who also designed Cullen's, Agave Bar & Grill and Goose Island Wrigleyville. Those less impressed with the physical surroundings are likely to be more taken with fellow patrons, wall of TVs and above average pub grub – though you'll have to suffer through IU and NU games if you're not a fan, and don't be surprised if most of the seats are marked "reserved" on game days... Kirkwood opened on New Year's Eve 2006 and, though some claim it to be a cookie-cutter bar with average to poor service, and too crowded and loud on most nights, has been hopping ever since. For more information, check out the Kirkwood Bar & Grill website. Bobby Knight, this steak sandwich is for you!