1725 W. Division St. 773-697-4804
Rating: !!! (our of four) Off to a good start
The scene: This new Wicker Park sports bar is owned by the team behind Bangers & Lace (conveniently located just down the street), and it was clear that some of the crowd had crossed over to check out the new spot on opening weekend. Neighborhood hipsters seemed not-quite-at-home among the flatscreens and Budweiser drafts. As the dinner crowd moved off to other spots, Blackhawks fans starting coming in for an 8 p.m. game. But the cheering never got too overwhelming. It's a sports bar, but a fairly calm one.
The drinks: Relax and have a Bud. Seriously. There are craft brews and a short cocktail menu, but the focus here is on regulary ol' domestic drafts. You get a sizeable glass for $4, so why try to beat the system?
The bites: Despite everything on the menu landing fairly squarely in the "bar comfort food" category, most of what we tried was crave-worthy. Hamburger mac n' cheese? Yeah, the plate was scraped clean. The Jucy Lucy, a burger stuffed with Velveeta and dressed with chopped pickles and onions seemed straight off a diner menu, though perhaps slightly overcooked. Pork belly sliders were tender, flavorful and a nice step out of the box.
Bottom line: The food will be a big draw here. It's not fancy, but it's good guilty-pleasure/nostalgic eating. Where else are you going to eat a fried Twinkie outside of a state fair? But don't let the association with Bangers & Lace fool you--The Anthem is sports bar, through and through. There may only be six screens, but you won't be able to take you eyes off of them for a second.