Tuesday was going to be my last full day in Chicago. I’d stayed 3 days because Chicago was definitely a city I wanted to see – much more so than New York or LA. And it was good to have a gentle introduction to the country with friendly faces, courtesy of Max – bless ‘im.
I spent the morning relaxing close to Lincoln Park. At one point, I walked across for a Starbuck’s coffee, and a mounted police officer was crossing the lights. It’s not just Stockbridge that has them.
From lunch-time onwards, I had plans to see a little more of the real Chicago. When I’d met Jason at the Wicker Park Fest on Sunday, he’d told me about an awesome burger bar a little way out of the centre, and we’d arranged to go there for lunch on Tuesday.
|Kuma’s Corner From ChicagoMilwaukee|
Jason picked me up around 1:30pm and we headed out on Diversey Parkway towards Kuma’s Corner. He mentioned the place was often packed with locals, with a queue stretching out onto the street sometimes. I really don’t like to queue – especially for food – and Jason hoped that by going a little later in the day and on an early weekday we’d be OK. Jason was right, it is popular. We were lucky to get 2 seats at the bar – no tables were free.
|Kuma’s Corner From ChicagoMilwaukee|
Kuma’s Corner is just my kind of place. It’s unashamedly rock n roll – and heavy rock n roll at that. The ambience was perfect. Good music, good decor and plenty of ink on both the staff and punters.
|The burger menu From ChicagoMilwaukee|
Kuma’s Corner specialises in gourmet burgers. It also serves a selection of other dishes, but it was definitely the burgers that caught my eye. Every burger is named after a metal band. There are Metallica burgers, Black Sabbath burger, Led Zepplin burgers, Megadeth burgers, and so on.
|The Pantera burger From ChicagoMilwaukee|
Jason ordered the Pantera burger, and mine had to be the Iron Maiden burger (well, what else could it have been?). Both were excellent – and big! I was left again thinking damn, America knows how to do good burgers!
|The Iron Maiden burger From ChicagoMilwaukee|
The other speciality of Kuma’s Corner is their beer menu. They had beers from all over the world – including a Boddington’s pub ale – and plenty of domestic brews. Jason recommended a limited edition Artic Panzer Wolf – an imperial pale ale from 3 Floyds Brewing in Indiana . It was superb, but then it had to be a $20 a pint bottle. It was also strong at 9% ABV. We had two!
|The mighty Artic Panzer Wolf From ChicagoMilwaukee|
America gets a lot of stick in the UK for having weak, pissy beer – but this is just the mass market generics like Bud and Miller. America also has some fantastic beers – stuff that CAMRA would be proud of. There is a really blossoming craft and micro brewery scene in the States, and it’s the real deal. And if Kuma’s Corner’s beer menu is anything to go by, it ain’t weak or pissy – it’s noticeably stronger than most of it’s British contemporaries – in fact the weaker beers on the menu were the British ones. The average ABV was somewhere between 6% and 7%. For me, it’s all about the taste, not the alcohol strength – but it certainly dispels any notion of weak, pissy American beer. Unfortunately, after the Artic Panzer Wolf, the Innis and Gunn Original from Edinburgh that I chose for Jason to try seemed rather too sweet.
When Jason had picked me up, I’d been sitting outside my hotel jotting down notes about the trip in a notebook, which meant I still had my messenger bag with me. Since I was planning on making a day of it with Jason, I had to lose the bag before I really lost it. We headed back to my hotel to dump the bag. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to let Jason try some real Scottish treasure and I cracked open the bottle of Bowmore that I had bought from duty free.
The whisky found a sympathetic audience and it gave Jason an idea. He knew a rock n roll bar that stocked hundreds of whiskies from all over the world. Sounded good to me. Next stop was Delilah’s.
You’d be hard pushed to find many bars with a more extensive whisky menu. We had a head-to-head tasting of some American versus Scottish whiskies. Scotland came out a head.
The afternoon had flown by and one of the things Jason wanted to show me was the live music scene in Chicago. Tuesday is not usually a good night for live music any place, but we were lucky, Anvil – a Canadian metal band – were playing at Reggie’s Rock Club, along with a handful of other bands, including the local band Bible of the Devil. We headed down to the south side of town.
|Bible of the Devil at Reggie’s Rock Club From ChicagoMilwaukee|
Reggie’s is a typical rock venue – wide with a stage at front and a bar at back. I felt at home. The bands rocked, all playing mostly original material rather than covers. Bible of the Devil played just before the headline act and I think they were definitely the best band of the night. There’s definite hints of Thin Lizzy there. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t hear from them in the UK at some point. I hope they make it.