720 S. Michigan Ave.
by Matt Norris
“I don’t trust no one who don’t take their own advice.”
Black Crowes; “Bad Luck, Blue Eyes, Goodbye”
Chris Robinson may have gotten the grammar all mangled, but he still makes an insightful point.
Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t follow his own advice.
And that’s the trouble with always giving advice.
Today I violated two of my very own words of wisdom:
1) Never eat at a hotel restaurant.
2) Never order food at an Irish pub.
But that’s exactly what I did by dining at Kitty O’Sheas. Just think, had it also been one of those pseudo-Irish chains like Bennigan’s or Beef O’Brady’s, I would have hit the trifecta of road food sins.
Obviously, my reasons to avoid hotel restaurants is obvious – most of their customers are never coming back. There’s no incentive to create shirt-buying-worthy cuisine.
And as for eating at an Irish pub, take it from someone who has spent their fair share downing pints in the deepest, darkest nooks of America and Ireland’s most legendary Irish pubs. Trust me, there’s a reason why the Irish are famous for their beer and not their food.
But today, a strange set of circumstances conspired against me and forced me to accept that of all the great dining establishments the Windy City offers, Kitty O’Sheas in the Chicago Hilton was my best option for dinner.
Apparently a lot of other people don’t follow my advice. At 5:30pm on a Wednesday, the place was packed.
Mostly suit-wearing 20-somethings networking over pints of American-made light beer and doing their best to impress their female co-workers.
There were also a few fellow travelers like me, who, for whatever reason, had no desire to leave the confines of their hotel.
As far as Irish pub decor? Well, what do you expect?
Kitty O’Sheas boasted predictable dark wood paneling, a few Irish beers on tap, and a cow statue covered in dark green shamrocks.
If you are looking for more than that, I’m afraid you’re going to have to venture outside of the Hilton.
I do have to give a few points to Kitty O’Sheas for their beer selection. While not extensive by any means, it does have a couple unusual offerings you won’t find in just any old bar.
For example, forgoing my Irish customary pint of Guinness, I sipped on a Kilkenny while perusing the very limited menu.
Kilkenny is somewhat unique simply because it’s an Irish beer far less ubiquitous than the typical corporate Irish beers like Guinness, Harp, and Smithwicks.
When you order a Kilkenny, you think you might actually be supporting the hardworking Irish guy, rather than some international conglomerate.
Until you read the fine print on the tap handle.
Turns out Kilkenny is a part of the vast Diageo empire, along with the rest of the corporate Irish beers.
Am I the only Irishman on the planet who finds it complete sacrilege that 99.9% of all Irish beer is produced by a world-dominating alcoholic beverage company whose headquarters resides in London, England?
Arthur Guinness (God rest his soul) must be flipping in his County Kildare grave.
Kilkenny is light, but tasty, and goes down smooth (REAL smooth) because it’s also nitrogenated like Guinness.
I tried a local microbrew next, Gossamer Golden Ale from Chicago’s own Half Acre Beer Company. A blonde ale with a bit of hoppy flavor, it was okay. Certainly better than Bud Light.
But when it comes to ordering food at an Irish pub, the safest bet is to eat before you get there.
The second safest is to get the fish and chips.
Kitty O’Sheas fish and chips came as two beer-battered pieces of mystery fish and a handful of seasoned fries. The dipping sauce was described on the menu as an “Old Bay Sauce”. In reality, it was more like a remoulade from New Orleans.
Surprisingly, the fish wasn’t all that bad. Crispy and flaky, and the sauce really elevated the dish to above average.
The fries were pretty good too.
I was thinking of giving my meal a little higher rating than I had anticipated.
Until the check came. And I was reminded of the other reason to avoid hotel restaurants.
Would you pay $35 for two pieces of fish, two beers, and a few fries?
Well, I just did.
But that’s what I get for not taking my own advice.
Rating: Would Wear A Free Shirt.