Chicago Dogs, Craft Beer, and Mid-West Hospitality

The notes for this story were gathered in September of 2019. A time that seems so long ago as the experiences and people met for this story were curated during a pre-pandemic world. But, I along with so many others had know idea just how much our world was about to change.

In an effort to do some housekeeping on all of the places I put notes and ideas for stories, I began sifting through a myriad of journals, scraps of paper, and electronic notes. In doing so I came across my musings about Chicago and decided to resurrect this story for you. I hope you enjoy.

I have had the privilege of visiting Chicago several times and let me say, every time I am completely blown away. This is an amazing city brimming with fantastic food, a great but somewhat hidden craft beer scene, fantastic bars, beautiful parks and literally some of the nicest people I have met while traveling in a large major US city.

The beautiful Chicago skyline at night

For me, and perhaps many others, my perception of Chicago was hot dogs with bright green relish, deep dish pizzas, and the Ell. But let me tell you, this city has so much more to offer to someone who chooses to visit.

“The Bean” aka Cloud Gate

And while this city is chock full of amazing food (seriously need to try the Italian Hot Beef sandwich from Al’s), great beers, impressive museums, gorgeous parks, and wonderful public art, the one thing that stood out for me in what is one of the largest US cities, are the people. Everyone is genuinely friendly.

So it is this friendliness, coupled with some amazing beers and bacon that I want to share with you a place that I believe embodies all things Chicago.

The Centennial Bar is nestled just off the corner of North LaSalle Drive and Superior Street. This local establishment focuses its efforts on craft beer and high quality food. Having visited twice during our time in Chicago, the Centennial came to embody what is for me a complete representation of all the wonderful things that are Chicago. Great people, great beer, and great food. Like all good discoveries, we stumbled upon this place in the never-ending quest for new beers and unique foods.

The Centennial is carved into a beautiful 4 story building that dates back to 1888 and welcomes the thirsty visitor with an exposed wood, brick and metal design that perfectly complement each other to create a welcome and relaxing vibe in which to enjoy one of the many rotating craft beers on tap or in the bottle. And if you are hungry, the food is of exceptional quality and what one would expect of a gastropub all while not being pretentious, just delicious.

Chris, the bar manager of Centennial who is just as passionate about great beers as I am and is ready and willing to help take you on your journey into delicious beers. If you are new to craft beer, Chris has an ability to help you dial in your flavors and taste to help you choose the best beers to suit your palate.

While Nikki is the kind of great server that has the gift of making you feel comfortable and welcome. Within just a few moments of meeting her we were all talking like friends. Hailing from the west coast, she has made Chicago her home as she pursues her educational endeavors. Also, if she, or anyone suggest that you order the house smoked bacon, do yourself favor and order the bacon. It really is that good and is great as a side to some of the many delicious beers available.

The genuineness of both Chris and Nikki truly embody the spirit of Chicago. So the next time you find yourself in the windy city, stop by Centennial and have a pint or two. You never know, you might just make some new friends. At the least, you will have some great beer and delicious food.

Locals and visitors enjoying the good food and beers at the Centennial Bar

Our stories, and the experiences that write them would not be what they are without the people we meet on our journeys. These once strangers act as the all important thread that holds the tapestry of our experiences together. Without the people that we meet, our travel experiences seem to be more mundane. The great food is no longer an experience, just lunch. The amazing art and architecture, just a painting or mural that we barely notice in or on a building. You see it is the people that we meet that create the connection for us to these things and allow us to truly enjoy them.

Taps just waiting to be pulled to serve a thirsty patron

As I have procrastinated on releasing this story, I know that Chris has moved on professionally, yet continues to stay in touch with the good people of the Centennial. While on the other hand, I’m not sure if Nikki is still working there or not, but because they both were such an integral part in our experience I have left them in the narrative.

Until next time, wishing everyone peace and good vibes.

Cheers!

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