The Paramount Room is a little find that's also a little hard to find. But it's well worth it to track-down this River West gastro-pub, which combines a wonderful selection of craft brews, intriguing cuisine and a number of low-brow drinking options in an intimate, historic setting.
The Paramount Room is located in a century old building, once home to a basement speakeasy. The bar's storefront entrance gives the impression that the place is quite small—which it is—but like Dr. Who's Tardis, there's more on the inside than meets the eye. The quaint main level consists of a short L-shaped bar, an open kitchen, a handful of two-top tables and a pair of "Barcelona-style" banquettes. Dark wood tones and indigo hues provide hints of color to complement the distressed wood floors, exposed brick and beams running across the lofted ceiling.
Half-way between the main floor and the basement lounge, you'll find the mezzanine level—a landing with a single over-sized table and chairs, which provides a rock star view of the lounge below. A second bar, booth, table seating and a soaring ceiling highlight the transformed speakeasy space, where you can party with the ghosts of benders past. Several HD TVs can be found mounted throughout, but Paramount Room is anything but a sports bar. Top Chef Masters occupied every set during my visit.
The Paramount Room is the creation of Jon Young and Stephen Dunne, the duo behind Roscoe Village's Volo. While Volo emphasizes the grape, Paramount Room pays equal homage to the hop. The Paramount is the only bar I recall that adds a date to their tap list. The nine high-end selections rotate on a continual basis, featuring craft beer varieties from around the world. I stayed in the Midwest with samples of Surly Cynic Saison Ale and a Three Floyds seasonal, but if you're undecided every draft is available in half pint portions and there's also a daily beer flight, which provides three samples for one sane price. Add another two dozen bottled beer selections, which also rotate, a laundry list of house cocktails, and a "boutique" wine list and all the drinking bases are covered.
The menu consists of elevated pub fare, with a European flair—with the likes of ale-steamed mussels and Scotch eggs for starters; a Guinness ice cream and root beer float for dessert. The majority of menu items run $12 or less, which brings considerable value for the quality of the food. (Okay, so the fresh-cut fries aren't included with sandwiches, but nothing's perfect.) But speaking of value, Paramount Room offers a daily special pairing of a Kobe beef hamburger and a pint for $10. (I know a place in River North that charges $19 for the burger alone.) On the liquid side, $3 will buy you a shot of the house rye or tequila and $5 will add a can of PBR to your shot, creating an instant happy hour.
The Paramount Room is best accessed from the Grand Avenue Blue Line stop, located two blocks north, though metered street parking is readily available for designated drivers. If you can't find the Paramount Room, just follow your nose. The bar is located just around the corner from the Blommer Chocolate Company where there are free smells for everyone. Maximum occupancy for the entire space at Paramount Room is 100, so get here early or call ahead for a reservation, if you're eating. The Paramount has a loyal following and they fill the place fast.
If you appreciate fine beers, fine food or just want to get snookered on the cheap, it's of paramount importance that you check this place out. If you like the Paramount Room you might enjoy the nearby Matchbox, the Duke of Perth in East Lakeview or maybe even the Long Room in North Center. For more information, check out the Paramount Room website. Here's mud in your eye.
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– written by Randy Kohl
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