While being cheaper than a trip to Edinburgh and more pleasant than a poke in the eye, the Duke of Perth is the best Scottish pub in Chicago. Okay, it’s only one of two Scottish pubs in Chicago, but it’s still pretty cool (and we like Ole St. Andrew’s Pub further north as well). And folks, it’s a pub. There are no televisions at the Duke, so you may have to talk to somebody. Known for its $10 all-you-can-eat fish and chips on Wednesdays and Fridays, 90 blends of single-malt scotch (best variety in Chicago), and very cute waitresses (hand-picked by the owner), the Duke has something for everyone and their brother – which causes the pub to get very crowded. This makes the Duke a better choice for weekday or early weekend afternoon patronage. I recommend it after a trip to nearby Border’s, Curl Up & Dye (hair salon of the same name as Carrie Fisher’s in the Blues Brothers), or after catching a flick at the Century City Mall movie theater. Not bad for a pub that’s been around since 1989.
For the beer enthusiast, the Duke offers such British ales as Fuller’s ESB, Abbott’s, Boddington’s, Tenant’s Lager, McEwan’s Ale, Twisted Thistle IPA, and Guinness. Not sure you like single-malt scotch? Just ask for a recommendation at the bar, and maybe you’ll get a free sample. Prior to going to the Duke one Tuesday night, I had only tried scotch once and had regretted it. My friend bought me a snifter of scotch for $7, and reluctantly, I tried it. It was glorious. Now I recommend the Laphroaig ($8.25 for the 15-year-old blend) and Craic to anyone wishing to try scotch. Duke of Perth also offers a variety of scotch flights so you can taste a few of the highland, lowland and “Kilt Warmer” variety. And for those of you who decide to put ice in your scotch, the mounted deer on the wall, wearing a Scottish police cap originally worn by former bobby and owner Duke of Perth Colin, might have you arrested…
The Duke is rather small, but it has two rooms. The official dining room is in back and offers a refuge for non-smokers. This room is complete with track lighting, a faux fireplace, Scottish agriculture implements and other Scottish memorabilia mounted on the walls. The phone and one-seater bathrooms are also in the back. Regular Duke of Perth patrons may be disturbed that the cartoons, written in Scottish brogue, are no longer framed on the wall but instead are laminated under a few table tops in the dining room. The front room is where the smallish, wooden bar is located, surrounded by a random collection of furniture that would rival any college student’s apartment.
“Not only are there no TVs, but they now have free WiFi, which has made the place my remote office.”– D.B. (May 28, 2009)
Head through the dining room, and through the glass door and you’ll find the Duke’s beer garden. Here you will find several plastic tables, a few trees in garden plots, and a large cement fence adorned with a coats of arms. The space is very pleasant in the all-too-short Chicago summertime, and is reminiscent of the romantic beer garden located just a few doors down at one of my favorite French restaurants in the city, La Creperie.
While Irish food is becoming more commonplace in the area, the Duke stands out in its variety and authenticity of selection of British food, similar to that of
The Globe Pub and Red Lion Pub
. In addition to the standard fish & chips—all-you-can-eat on Monday and Wednesday nights—one can enjoy shepherd’s pie, stilton and pear salad, Scotch eggs, steak & kidney pie, half-pound “Sean Connery” and “Rob Roy” burgers, chicken sandwiches, Hebridean potato and leek pie, and “haggis wings” (chicken wings). My advice regarding the fish & chips: substitute the peas for English-style fries or “chips” and douse them with plenty of malt vinegar. Brilliant.
Not to be confused with Duke’s, located on Clark further south in Lincoln Park, the Duke of Perth offers fine Scottish pub grub, potent liquor, and an authentic pub atmosphere that is tough to beat – only bars like Cullen’s, the Red Lion and Chief O’Neill’s even come close. This has made the Duke of Perth my favorite bar in which to partake in 2am drinking sessions on Tuesday. If you find yourself having the same, grab a gumball or Runt for the road from one of the machines on you way, and be careful of the broken steps that lead out from the front door. I would also recommend that you try to avoid any Seinfeld-ian public urination incidents at the Century City Mall due to “uromisitisis” or like the one I had the misfortune of seeing behind Wrigleysville Dogs (yes, that is the correct spelling). For more information, check out the Duke of Perth website. And, if you’re thinking about heading to the Duke, remember: if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!