Open since 2012, Municipal Bar + Dining Co is a sports bar and restaurant located in Chicago’s River North, not far from Merchandise Mart. While the area already has its share of sports bars, Municipal is a bit more upscale than its rivals, quite spacious, and does feature a large, elevated patio on the side of the restaurant. Plus, for the area, they’re pretty affordable.
Municipal has the look of a former warehouse space: lots of brick, wood, and a fairly open layout. They also take subtle influences in the décor from the streets of Chicago as well—imagine walking under the “L” tracks if it wasn’t noisy and dirty. While flat screen TVs are everywhere, the place has a clean, classy look thanks to accents like the retro, Thomas Edison-esque lighting fixtures. This isn’t a beer-soaked sports dive with memorabilia packed into every corner. I’ve heard the place can get rowdy during big games—take note this is a Michigan State bar—but was pretty relaxed right after work on a weekday.
patio at Municipal Bar + Dining Co. in Chicago
Municipal Bar + Dining Co.
There’s lots of space both in the restaurant and the long patio outside. Municipal should appeal to sports fans looking for a slightly classier game watching experience along with Loop office workers looking for a bite or happy hour drink after work.
Municipal has a pretty solid selection of local craft beer from the likes of Revolution, Lagunitas, and Solemn Oath, along with typical sports bar classics like Coors Light and Bud Light. What really impressed me, though, was Municipal’s varied selection of cocktails, each of which exceptional:
Dirty South Mule: Municipal had a big selection of flavored Moscow Mules. My server recommended the Dirty South, which was made with sweet tea vodka. It was refreshing, not too sweet or boozy, and had just a bit of a kick.
Irish Old Fashioned: I’m trying to stop reviewing the old fashioned at every place I go, but my servers keeping recommending them and I can’t resist. Made with Jameson and served with a jumbo ice ball, the Irish Old Fashioned played with a subtle grapefruit flavor that was well balanced next to the whiskey.
Swipe Right: I tried a sip of my dining partner’s vodka-based Swipe Right. It was pretty light with a fruity taste that was just enough to downplay any vodka burn while not being grossly sweet like a lot of fruity cocktails. While I prefer something stronger like the Irish, I’d recommend this for anyone looking for a crisp, breezy cocktail to start off the night.
Municipal Bar has a substantial menu of pub-focused food with some more interesting ingredients than you find at the typical sports bar (they also have a weekend brunch menu). Here’s what I sampled:
Spinach & Artichoke Dip
Municipal Bar Chicago’s spinach artichoke dipI love spinach & artichoke dip and wish more restaurants carried it as an appetizer. Though easy to screw up—my college cafeteria loved to make this and it was generally both watery and chewy—the Municipal dip was hot, creamy, and paired with warm, toasted pretzel. The portion here was quite big and could easily be shared between two to three people.
The Municipal & Prime Burgers
My eye was immediately drawn to the Municipal Burger, largely because it was the only menu item accented with a box. For their burgers, Municipal uses a Pat LaFreida blend that was tender with a nice outer char. Adding to the subtle crunch of the burger were fried tomatoes that was balanced by some smooth, fresh avocado slices.
On the other end of the table, my buddy ordered the Prime Burger, which has an over easy egg, bacon, and manchego cheese. He said concurred the meat was the best part and said the egg was the perfect addition to the burger.
Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
The skillet cookie at Dunlays on the Square is one of my biggest guilty pleasures, and I had to see how Municipal matched up. I can easily say this was just as good. The cookie was super soft and gooey with vanilla ice cream, drizzles of chocolate and raspberry sauce, and almonds. My friend has been trying to cut back on sweets, and he couldn’t resist the ultra decadence of this wonderful cookie.
Municipal Bar Bottom Line
Municipal Bar & Dining Co is in an accessible location that’s already packed with great restaurants. However, the cost of eating in River North can be somewhat prohibitive unless you’re a millionaire. Municipal, though, is a place where you can grab a great drink and enjoy a burger on the patio after work or on a game day without having to pay an arm and a leg.
Municipal Bar + Dining Co.
216 W Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60654