With the arrival of grilling and sidewalk dining season, here are a few of my favorite/local places to get a beer and a burger. (These are also, coincidentally, the places I take my family when they come to visit. Nothing too fancy, good food (and options for everyone), good brews/cocktails, and maybe a few TVs showing whatever game happens to be on.)
Revolution Brewing Brewpub
Good for: Beer and burger pairings, pizzas, getting up close and personal with where your beer comes from, and filling up.
Ambiance: young and hipster-ish, with an open-air dining feel in the summer.
Notes: Plenty of bike parking, not as much street parking. Also, strangely welcoming to vegetarians.
Good for: Creative burgers with clever names and trying new things.
Ambiance: Loud, but friendly.
Notes: This is the second location for this successful mash-up of burgers, beer, and heavy metal music, located in Lincoln Park. Bring your appetite and don't expect much conversation (you'll be too busy eating).
Logan Bar & Grill
Good for: Watching the game, but not your waistline.
Ambiance: Casual, sports-friendly, and refreshingly un-trendy.
Notes: Several bars and clever seating make Logan appear much larger than it is. No wrong orders that I know of, but the pulled pork sandwich is especially good.
Madison Public House
Good for: Watching the Badgers, winning trivia, nightly specials, cheese curds!
Ambiance: A proud Wisconsin bar that also knows it's in Chicago: homey, yet metropolitan.
Notes: Some nights this place is empty, other nights it's packed. It's located between two more popular neighborhoods, so hopefully the runoff from those areas keeps Madison Pub House in business! Their Friday Fish Fry basket is A-Okay.
Will's Northwoods Inn
Good for: Joining fellow Wisconsinites in cheering for whoever is playing, and getting a few food and drink specials while you're there.
Ambiance: Unpretentious, unassuming, and unashamedly in love with Wisconsin.
Notes: "A little bit of God's Country in the heart of South Lakeview" pretty much sums it up. And yes, it really is a converted inn, which makes for a fun atmosphere of several different rooms/bars, yet a sense of connection with everyone cheering for the Packers/Badgers/Brewers (and a few Chicago teams as well).
Etno Village Grill: I was lucky to eat here once during Etno's short run as a specialty burger joint. My burger was awesome - topped with mustard, arugula, and pears - and I was hoping to return again after their expansion, but now that the expansion (which has taken years) is more of a total overhaul, I'm not as excited.