Chicago has a vibrant food scene with new restaurants and concepts constantly popping up. But how do you continue to stay relevant when your restaurant has been around for nearly a decade? Case in point: the Fifty/50. The sports bar was one of the first of its kind on Wicker Park’s Division St. and has been lauded by numerous publications, featured by Adam Richman of Man vs. Food fame, and the team behind it has gone on to create a number of popular restaurants—be sure to visit their latest, Steadfast, which we loved.
However, Division seems to spawn a new sports bar every month that’s only mildly different. Not to be pushed aside by the competition, the Fifty/50 has fully renovated the bar, restaurant, and pumped up the menu.
Atmosphere and Décor
I’m about as sports averse as they come, so going to a sports bar with blaring TVs, cheap beer spilling out of pitchers, and eating over-priced nachos covered in mysterious orange goop is not my idea of a fun time. The Fifty/50 is not like that at all and will definitely reinvent your idea of watching the game. It’s an upscale sports bar that’s clean, sleek, and not obnoxious. Remove the TVs, and you’d have no idea this was intended to be a sports bar.
Compared to the way it used to look, the restaurant is a lot brighter and inviting with prominent whites and warm woods mixed in with darker leather, metal, and some really attractive lighting fixtures. Besides looking sharp, the Fifty/50 stands out with their unique layout. Walking in, you’ll immediately notice a second layer of seating above that almost appears to be floating above you. When you’re upstairs, there’s a big cutout in the center letting you see all the action below. There’s additional seating below the ground floor and outside on the patio.
If you are interested in watching the game, flat screen televisions line the walls, though they’re not turned up to an ear-splitting volume. You’ll be able to cheer your favorite team, but at the same time could completely tune everything out and just enjoy a cocktail or burger.
What really makes the Fifty/50 help stand out from the pack is an incredible bar menu with craft beer, whiskeys, wines, and innovative cocktails. When I was over at Steadfast earlier this summer, I really loved their Johnny and Friends Cocktail, a gin-based drink with summer apple, vanilla, and a chartreuse-flavored whip cream on top. The Fifty/50 has a version of it with the same flavors, except it’s frozen to make for an excellent summer drink.
Certainly the most unique “drink” on the menu is the snow. The Fifty/50 has a snow machine that they use to make a different alcoholic snow special each day. During my visit, they were pouring a Stiegl Radler and gin concoction that was light and fluffy, just like real snow, yet tasted exactly like a grapefruit-flavored Radler. There’s huge novelty value here, and the flavors and rotating selection mean you’ll want to have this again and again. Plus, there’s a real joy to seeing the bartender getting this snow machine going.
The Fifty/50 serves bar food, but in a way that’s far from traditional. They’re not afraid to try unique flavor combinations of ingredients for big, delicious results. Just take a look at their huge selection of burgers and the large description underneath each on their menu.
I tried the “O-Face” burger: the tender and juicy “secret triple” burger that’s topped with barbecue pulled pork, gooey cheddar, and mac and cheese baked into a waffle shape. It looked crazy and tasted amazing. Even better was it was a surprisingly clean burger that all stayed together.
Besides the excellent burger, I also sampled some of their wings because it’s hard to ignore the big red part on the menu that says “Jumbo Wings Voted Best Wings in Chicago!” Likely the biggest chicken wings I’ve had—where do they get these chickens?—they’re crisp, but still quite juicy and tender. The spicy garlic was very good. They weren’t overly spicy, pretty clean to eat, and were a little similar to Korean-style chicken wings.
Division Street these days is where everyone likes to come watch the game, have some drinks, and can feel more and more like a mini-Wrigleyville. However, as far as dining options, most are pretty lackluster. That’s not the case with the Fifty/50, a spot where you can watch the game while sipping on a craft cocktail or biting into a burger packed full of flavor. Better yet, the Fifty/50 is a place where you can feel comfortable and enjoy a nice dinner out any day of the week.
2047 W Division St, Chicago, IL 60622
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