Once home to blue-collar watering hole Ira's Bar, this West Loop establishment carries the torch of the old-school Chicago tavern, with up-market flourishes revolving around a 40-foot mahogany bar. Between the handful of tables lounging under the low lighting and three well-placed flat-screen TVs, Third Rail is equally accommodating for the mid-week date and sports-watching night.
The tavern seems to place a greater emphasis on the distilled than the brewed. The shelves on either side of the cash register feature a symmetrically arranged cornucopia of call and premium liquors. And all that hooch is put to good use; the bar offers 14 specialty cocktails, including the Tennessee Kiss, an intriguing blend of single barrel Jack Daniels, Grand Marnier and fruit juices. However, the Ira's Bar crew might have rolled their eyes at the limited beer selection: Draft beers max out at four, and neither pedestrian suds such as PBR, nor fancier brews such as Chimay and Orval, are on offer.
The Third Rail's mix of the familiar and classy extends to the food menu. Old favorites are given interesting twists. For example, the Third Rail's version of the trusty portobello mushroom sandwich comes topped with a whole roasted red pepper and spinach. Perhaps the most striking feature of the food is the price; despite the gourmet touches, all selections are in the $5-$7 range.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Adam Burke