Tour De Beer Garden at Ottimo, Blarney Stone Pub and Durbin's
This week, we slip martinis, beer and a couple bites into our criteria.
Osteria Ottimo – Orland Park
LaGrange Road does not evoke visions of peacefulness. More like road rage.
So how could a beer garden so close to Orland’s backbone thoroughfare be such a stress free place to kick a few back? The answer may be obvious, but Osteria Ottimo has a whole lot going on. Great food for meals or just munching, spot on cocktails, massive wine list, and best of all, you don’t have to yell to talk to your faithful companions for the evening.
1. Adult atmosphere. On a recent Thursday night, it was just we older folks. No screeching kids within range. Frank Sinatra played softly in the background, as to not drown out your deep conversations about life.
2. Beer selection. They have plenty of beer, but take advantage of the gargantuan wine list. But the real sleeper here: the vodka martini. I’m usually looking for two olives, two parts gin, one part vermouth and spare the painfully annoying, gaudy and otherwise martini-destroying extras, but they had me sold on the vodka version. Chilled just right. More on these wonderful mind-numbing elixirs below.
3. Courteous wait staff. Our man, who’s name I didn’t get, knew exactly when to offer us more beverage, and when to quietly back away so we could finish our important discussions about people making odd faces in public when they think no one is watching.
4. Daily specials. We were fortunate to visit Ottimo’s on $6 Absolut martini night. Yes, I know. My liver fluttered a little too when I heard that. The specials are there, but it’s always best to give the place a call at 708-403-3366 just to be sure on what’s going on that night. We also ordered their excellent, heavily loaded brushcetta, with enough fresh tomato, basil and soft Mozzarella that it needs forks. And don’t forget that herb butter served with the complimentary bread.
5. Plenty of seating. Far more than enough. Being at the north end of the strip also keeps away a lot of distracting traffic from breaking up your evening’s flow. All the tables have seats for four but can easily be attached. And plenty of space lies between them so you don’t hear much from the loud folks to your right talking about recent surgery.
6. Both shady and sunny options. Large cloth umbrellas adorn almost every table. Take your pick.
The Verdict: A big thumbs up to Osteria Ottimo. Pleasant, clean, conducive for fun, great food and cocktails. The only drawback? Lighting. They could use a pinch more out there so we’re not squinting at menus.
Durbin's — Tinley Park
Right in the heart of downtown Tinley Park, Durbin's beer garden is definitely well placed for people watching.
It does get a bit noisy at times—particularly as the motorcycles pass by—but the street's not as busy as other local thoroughfares. You have to expect the sounds of the outdoors when there isn't a roof over your head or a shelter to insulate street noise. Plus, you're in a beer garden. No complaining allowed.
1. Adult atmosphere. On a recent Thursday night around 6 p.m., there were still a few kids lingering around the garden area. At the time, it seemed the crowd was transitioning from primarily families to 20-somethings and middle-aged friends and couples. Even while the youngin's were there, they weren't screeching or being disruptive. That's not to say it couldn't happen, though.
2. Beer selection. You call it. The bar offers 22 bottled beers 10 draft beers—including Woodchuck, a rare one—and an extensive martini list. Pineapple upside-down cake, lemon drop, Washington apple and snicker bar martinis are all available, as well as your more typical dirty mix. Margaritas, daiquiris, Irish coffee and Durbin's Irish creme are also highlights on the liquid menu.
3. Courteous wait staff. She was perfect. No one wants to be hounded by a server. This one was able to keep a perfect balance between making sure my glass wasn't empty for long and not overwhelming a lone diner.
4. Daily specials. Where to start? Durbin's offers daily deals that typically transition with the season. In July, it's half-priced pizzas and $1.25 domestic pints on Mondays. Tuesdays offer $2 Coronas and margaritas and $1 tacos. Wednesday—wing night—boasts 40 cent wings, half-priced martinis, $10 domestic buckets and $4 Durbin's bombs. Kicking off the weekend early? Stop by on Thursdays for $1.50 domestic bottles, $2 Jager, UV and Soco lime shots, $3 you-call-its and two-for-one pastas. On Friday, you'll score $3 import pints. Saturday features Durbin's bombs and on Sunday, belly up to a $4 build-your-own bloody Mary bar, $3 Durbin's bombs and $10 domestic buckets. Phew. That was a mouthful.
5. Plenty of seating. Absolutely. The garden has two sides and all the tables have a safe distance between them. (Neighbors won't hear you talking about how good looking your fellow beer garden goer is).
6. Both shady and sunny options. Yes. This garden has better sun and shade options than most I've seen. (I find it's usually only one or the other). Durbin's garden has two sides — one is pretty sunny with a few shady options beneath a couple of awnings while the other is mostly shaded.
The Verdict: We tip our hat to Durbin's. We found the venue's generous daily specials very endearing — not to mention its creative martini list. Oh, and the beer's pretty darn good too.
Blarney Stone Pub — Oak Forest
1. Adult atmosphere. Blarney's beer garden is tucked in along Cicero Avenue, with two entrances: one off the dining room, one off the bar area. This can make it a bit tricky for an adult atmosphere. We went around dinnertime, and there were some tots outside with us, but they were well-supervised, so we barely noticed. Later on in the evening, the crowd was older and fewer kids were around. A DJ rolled in with karaoke, and someone pulled out the bean bags for a friendly game. The whole setting felt very backyard barbecue-esque. We were huge fans.
2. Beer selection. Blarney can definitely boast about its beer selection. Two of the three of us ordered a beer with our dinners. My friend Dave chose the Allagash Curieux, a beer aged in a bourbon barrel, and I went with Allagash White, a take on a Belgian wheat beer spiced with coriander and Curacao orange peel. I usually go with the Abita Purple Haze, a wheat beer with raspberry puree added after filtration, but decided to try something new. And there are plenty of brews to try at Blarney. Check out their beer menu and prices online before you go, so you'll know if a stop at the ATM is necessary.
3. Courteous wait staff. Our waitress was newer to Blarney Stone, and we could tell. Not in her service or precision, but in her effort. She went out of her way to keep our drinks cold and our food timely. She asked us for our personal preferences several times—not something you see everywhere you go. We were pleased with her service and hope it showed in her tip.
4. Daily specials. Plenty of specials, food and drink. We went on a Thursday night, but decided to stray from the night's specials offerings. Thursdays feature $1 and $2 select craft pints, $3 Captain Morgan pints, $2 Southern Comfort and lime shots, $3 domestic draft half-pitchers, $6 call liquor half-pitchers and half-price thin crust 14-inch cheese pizza or garlic crisp until 8 p.m. My Allagash White ran me $5 for a 12-oz. bottle. We were just leaving when the DJ rolled out into the beer garden around 8 p.m., another perk for Thursday nights. Check out the full list of daily specials on their site.
5. Plenty of seating. I'd estimate there's enough seating for about 24 to 30 people. Tables are relatively close together, but it makes it easy to party-hop over to the two cool people hanging out by themselves chatting excitedly about journalism and spontaneously swing dancing. The bar streams audio from the TVs out onto the patio, so my Sox fan friend didn't have to miss the game, and the music later on helped drown out the buzz of traffic behind us on Cicero Avenue.
6. Both shady and sunny options. This might be our one gripe with this garden: there were no umbrellas, no trees nearby, so no shade. For an evening outside, it's not so bad, but if you were shooting for a lunchtime dining option, this wouldn't quite work.
The Verdict: A hearty clink of the glass to Blarney. The beer selection, service and options for fun and activities create a down-home feel out in the beer garden. It's hard not to enjoy yourself out there. My friends and co-worker can attest to that. We'll be going back.