Generally, I don’t understand why some places bother with the extra “e” at the end of grille, but in the case of Jefferson Tap & Grille, it might just stand for “Excellent.” A cozy downstairs neighborhood sports tap, a roomy lounge space upstairs (The Loft), a dog-friendly sidewalk cafe, tons of everyday specials, late-night weekend hours and some of the friendliest service around, all make the Jefferson Tap a top tippling spot.
I stumbled upon Jefferson Tap while looking for parking before dinner at nearby Carnivale and I instantly knew the place required further investigation. Previously, I had thought the Fulton Market neighborhood was limited to trendy restaurants, clubs, loft condos, assorted food distributors, and rats the size of Ryan Theriot. As usual, I was wrong. Jefferson Tap is situated on Jefferson St. where it scenically dead ends at the Metra tracks, near the location of Chicago’s first watering hole, the Wolf Tavern. Look for metered parking around the corner on Fulton or hop a thee-minute train ride from the Loop to the Clinton Pink/Green line stop. Once there, you can’t miss the painted brick and dark awnings that adorn the standalone two-story building that houses the bar. A sizeable sidewalk patio is set up out front. And for those with canine companions, a complimentary bowl of dog biscuits awaits.
Step into front foyer, with the ATM and facilities to your left, the main bar to your right, and stairs leading to The Loft dead ahead. The comfortable main bar has the look and feel of a classic neighborhood tavern. Exposed brick and ceiling joists are minimally decorated with a few framed sports jerseys and photos. A small curved service bar sits in one corner next to the kitchen, a curved banquette runs along the opposite wall and closely spaced cocktail tables in-between. Ten flatscreens of varying sizes give you the ability to watch several games at once. There’s really not a bad seat in the house, but these aren’t the largest screens in town. There is also not one, but two Golden Tee 2010 video games and a digital jukebox to stand in for your iPod. For a more lounge-like vibe, head upstairs to the aptly named Loft, a space at least twice the size of the main bar. Here, you’ll find an impressive, towering service bar, a pool table, plentiful seating and, occasionally, a projection TV for big screen viewing.
The beer list is not overly extensive, but does offer a few dozen options that cover the “Top 20”, plus some interesting craft and import selections. There is also a selection of house cocktails and martinis, including the “treetini” made with VeeV, a liquor made from the acai berry. As befitting a good neighborhood tap, no matter what night you go, you’ll find an array of food and drink specials, including $5 Skyy cocktails on Mondays, 20oz. imperial pints of Guinness on Thursdays and $6 25oz. Samuel Adams drafts on Fridays.
The menu is mostly straight-ahead bar food—salads, sandwiches, apps, pizzas—with a few variations. A friend tried the basic cheeseburger and proclaimed it a masterpiece of char-grilled perfection. Maybe that’s where Jefferson Tap & Grille’s extra “e” comes in, or maybe he was just hungry. From the happy looks of the other diners, I’ll side with the former.
Jefferson Tap is one of the least pretentious places I’ve been in a long time and it all starts with the sensational service. From the warm greeting from the doorman coming in, to the server promptly rattling off specials and offering suggestions right after we sat down, the vibe and service we received were absolutely refreshing. The laid back crowd mostly had that neighborhood feel, though that may change on weekends. Sunday-Wednesday Jefferson Taps closes at the standard 2am. On Thursday and Friday the Tap pours until 4am and 5am on Saturday. Not only is Jefferson Tap an excellent pre-game option for clubbers, but it’s also an excellent post-game option for anyone looking for alcohol after last call. (You know you will…)
A local car dealership used to advertise “We’re hard to find, but tough to beat.” Maybe this could be Jefferson Tap’s new slogan. If you like Jefferson Tap, you should try these tips: Emmit’s Pub, Paramount Room, and the Green Eye Lounge. For more information, daily specials and possibly directions, check out the Jefferson Tap website. Cha-cha-cha.