In the shadows of the Magnificent Mile, Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap offers a more than reasonable refuge from the manic bargain hunters and over-designed hotel bars. Though part of the Levy Restaurant Empire (Spiaggia, Fulton’s on the River, Bistro 110), Melnick’s does a decent job of recreating a neighborhood pub feel. Novelties like an 8-pound burger and thermo-nuclear hot wings add some character. An equal mix of locals and tourists give the scene some variety. And there are deals to be had (see above). For a cold beverage, above average bar fare and a sports fix in this part of the concrete jungle, Melnick’s feels as welcome as a one-day sale—not bad for Chicago’s only bar located under a parking garage…
Jake Melnick’s is located on the southeast corner of Superior and Wabash, just a Jay Cutler bomb away from Michigan Avenue. Two narrow outdoor patios flank the covered entrance that tries its best to disguise the fact that that this “corner tap” is located at the base of a modern skyscraper. The dim interior is done in a soft-core lodge motif, with warm woods and faux-paneling initially featured by the bar’s predecessor, Blackhawk Lodge, but lacking somewhat the authentic detail of somewhere like Will’s Northwoods Inn or Lincoln Tavern. Located along the back wall, a 50-foot bar runs nearly the length of the space. To the right is a room best set up for watching the game. To the left is a full dining room and enclosed sidewalk patio more suited for groups looking to catch up rather than catch the score. Seating is a mix of both high and low tables, with a couple of communal islands mixed in—nice for mingling. You’ll find 17 sets scattered about the room, with a few other diversions on hand. And all you aspiring Dane Cooks take note: Tuesday at 9:30 features open mic comedy, where the wince-to-chuckle ratio is about 1:1.
Though I’ve seen Yelpers yapping in the negative, I’ve never been disappointed by the food at Melnick’s. The slow-cooked BBQ brisket sandwich is surely their signature dish in my view—order extra sauce for the skin-on fries. Chicken and ribs also get the full BBQ treatment and the individual burgers never disappoint. Though I’ve never seen anyone order the insane 8-pound “Monster” burger, I’m guessing it can feed double the eight people the menu suggests. Melnick’s also offers chicken wings prepared six ways, including the ridiculously hot red savina pepper XXX variety. (A red savina is 200 times hotter than a jalapeño.) The wings come complete with a waiver for you to sign and have garnered Melnick’s enough publicity to have had them mentioned on numerous TV shows, though some claim that the Blazin’ wings at Buffalo Wild Wings are actually hotter. If you are successful in getting through an order, they will take a photo of you and put it on their wall. Whatever you do, please don’t rub your eyes while eating these. As a bonus, the kitchen stays open until 2am Thursday–Saturday for all you “fourth meal” enthusiasts.
The beer list at Melnick’s is more than adequate. Sixteen offerings on tap and another 60 selections by the bottle give even the most discerning beer connoisseur something to contemplate. In general, the prices at Melnick’s are about what you’d expect for this high-rent district. Sans specials, a pint will run you close to $6 and specialty items like those XXX wings will set you back a (not so) cool $15.95. That said, Melnick’s offers some attractive monthly deals like a half-pound burger paired with a pint of Miller Lite for $9.95. The crowd is generally laid back and includes a nice mix of locals, tourists and day-trippers on the weekends and even the occasional minor celebrity—does Joe Perillo of Perillo BMW qualify as a celebrity?
Overall, Jake Melnick’s offers a nice escape from the Michigan Avenue madness and has more appeal than many other corporate-owned restaurant and bars, similar to a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant. If you like Melnick’s, you might want to try Streeter’s Tavern, the original Billy Goat Tavern or splurge a little and enjoy a drink above it all in the 95th floor Signature Lounge in the John Hancock Building. For more information, check out the Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap website. Here’s to ya’.