Did you know the nation's oldest existing limestone roundhouse is in the Chicago area? Crazy, huh? Head out to Aurora to see the "Walter Payton Roundhouse," built in 1856 as a complex to repair train cars, and renovated in 1995 by the late great Chicago Bears running back after it lay dormant for a few decades.
Now the roundhouse is a 70,000-square-foot entertainment center with 14 bars (you can never have too many!), an open-air courtyard in the middle, and America's Brewpub, a casual dining area featuring some of the best brews in Aurora.
The brewpub features five steady beers – the Payton pilsner (a pale lager), the Payton pilsner light (a World Beer Cup winner), the Sweetness stout (milk stout with black and chocolate malts), the Aurora amber ale (a rich pale ale), and the honey wheat ale (a straw-colored, medium-bodied ale) - as well as the occasional seasonal selections.
Food-wise, the menu is surprisingly gourmet – steaks are the featured item, including filet mignon ($27-$36), New York strip ($29-$35) and prime rib ($29-$40). There's seafood, pork chops, pastas and salads for dinner as well, and bar food available for lunch: tacos, pulled pork, pizza, burgers and the like.
The restaurant is a two-story building, with seating available in the courtyard near a musical gazebo. Inside the theme seems to be "woodland lodge," as it's a large, wood-laden room, accentuated by a gigantic mural of dancing bears (perhaps in dedication of the restaurant's titular Chicago Bear). There's really no way to mince words: It's a rather strange picture in a peculiar-feeling room. But no matter; after a few tasty microbrews, you'll stop noticing.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Andy Seifert