Sippin' on the Dock of the Bay as Summer Weather Beckons Boaters to the Water, We Got to Wondering ... Where Can a Seaworthy Sailor Grab Some Grub and Sink Some Suds?
Bush, Joe, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Joe Bush Daily Herald Staff Writer
Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum.
With that signature snippet from an ancient song of the sea, the recreational boater can fly a historical precedent from the prow as proudly as Jolly Rogers once fluttered from pirate-ship mainmasts.
Set the course for fun, and full speed ahead.
When Chicagoland sailors and boaters need fuel for their frolicking and cold relief from the sun that beckoned them, plenty of eating and drinking establishments with docks and slips stand ready for inspection.
Sure, anyone can carry edible and potable cargo, and never come off the water, but landlubbers could stay home and consume whatever they have in the fridge and pantry, too.
The bottom line is, we like to be served, whether we walk or we float.
Lake Michigan leads to the Chicago River, and the Fox River winds through the Chain O'Lakes.
The area's boater-friendly bars and restaurants cluster there, greeting nautical customers looking for as little as a frosty beer or as much as a world-class, white-linen meal.
Once ashore, boaters can mingle with their shipmates as well as those who go to the water's edge simply for the beauty, or the beverage, or the bounty of the kitchen.
"People like to sit in the sun," says John Haley, owner of Blarney Island in Antioch, "and forget about their troubles."
With a month and a half or so of prime outdoor weather remaining, check out these stress-reducing hosts, who will greet you on the dock or at the front door.
Blarney Island, Cary's Broken Oar, and Chicago's Slow Down ... Life's Too Short head the list of casual venues, while Chicago's Green Dolphin Street and Algonquin's Port Edward cater to the fine-dining crew.
Slow Down...Life's Too Short, 1177 N. Elston Ave., Chicago; (773) 384-1040
Formerly Hot Tuna, then Boondocks, SDLTS opened in June, boasting three decks, docking for 30 boats, and an attitude straight from an island or key.
"We're all speeding into oblivion, collecting toys, all that," says Chris Ryan, a working partner in The Lodge Management Group. "Why not slow down, enjoy life?"
The Lodge Management Group also owns and operates The Lodge, Pippin's, Streator's, Hangge Uppe, Bootlegger's, Mothers Too, and Shenanigan's House of Beers, and spent nearly a year remodeling the building now housing SDLTS.
"Wacky nautical" is how Ryan describes the inside decor, enhanced by hanging swimsuits. Outside, the place needs no decorating help.
The bottom deck is just feet from the Chicago River, while the middle patio includes a well-used shower for sun-baked boaters. The top level has its own bar and a skyline view.
"This was kind of a change of pace," said Harry Madorin of Chicago, who had joined Tim Lally of Highland Park for a ride on Lally's pontoon.
That's exactly the point of SDLTS, which claims as a mascot a fictional owner named Shorty.
Shorty, the story goes, spent his life making money and buying things, believing the adage "he who dies with the most toys wins."
After quitting the rat race to go wherever his boat took him, he shipwrecked and stumbled into a small Florida town whose laid-back folk served him swamp-style food and a new gospel.
You guessed it - "Slow Down, Life's Too Short."
Shorty returned to Chicago to preach from the decks and to showcase a menu which includes Swamp Chips, Cy's Creek Catfish Nummies, Glade-Buzzard Wings, and sauces named Swampmustard Funk, Fiery Felda Fire, Suthin Swamp Style, and Arrestingly Spicy Barbecue.
SDLTS is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturdays.
Green Dolphin Street, 2200 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, (773) 395-0066
Known for its nightly live jazz as much for a menu that includes such first-course choices as smoked sturgeon with sunflower sprouts, enoki mushrooms, and citrus caviar; a second-course selection that boasts sweet onion broth with mascarpone tortolloni; a main-course list claiming grilled applewood smoked beef tenderloin with potato-mushroom pave and port reduction as one of its options; and a dessert card naming chocolate mousse and praline torte with brandy-soaked cherries among others. …