Firkin in the northern Chicago suburb of Libertyville, IL (see map) is reminiscent of an old English pub right down to the cask hand drawn beers they serve. In fact the term, Firkin, is what the English use to call the volume size of a keg of beer.
Once again, I didn't know whether to call this a "beer bar" or a "restaurant" because both fit the description of Firkin very well. They have over 25 different beers to choose from including over 15 beers on draft. But they also have an extensive menu with some very good food, as well.
Now, Firkin in Libertyville is not to be confused with the Canadian Firkin Pubs which is putting franchise locations across the U.S. This is a one of a kind experience.
Firkin is one of two side-by-side restaurants owned by Rick Jamsen - the other being the upscale American-style steak house, The Tavern. While The Tavern is more of a buttoned-down place that has been in existence since the early 80's, Firkin is more of a "business-casual" restaurant that has been open now for nine years.
(I've eaten at The Tavern a couple three times and I'll do a report on that place coming up very soon.)
Although it faces Milwaukee Ave in downtown Libertyville, you enter Firkin from the rear of the building - there's plenty of parking behind the business in a city parking lot. Go down a long hallway and the bar is on your left and the tables for the dining area are on your right. A number of colorful lights adorn the ceiling area of Firkin, giving a festive feel to the place.
I went to dinner with a friend of mine, Steve Weiner, and his girlfriend when I was in Libertyville on business recently. We walked from his house to Firkin, not any more than three blocks away. Libertyville is one of those great Chicagoland suburb communities that features some pretty good restaurants in the area. My friend says that's one of the reasons he likes to live in Libertyville.
We were seated at a table along the wall and each of us ordered up a beer from their extensive list of fine ales. Steve and his girlfriend each got a Maredsous 6 from Duvel, a fine Belgian Pale Ale that looks dark, but has a light beer taste to it; and I got a Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale - one of my favorite Pale Ale's, and one that's tough to find outside of Ohio.
Firkin had a series of dinner specials the evening I was there, including a great looking soft shell crab with pasta in a white sauce dish. Of course, they'd sold out of it by the time we got there. I ended up getting the horseradish encrusted halibut - a breaded halibut with horseradish incorporated within.
My buddy got the hot Caribbean sandwich - a grilled pork loin, smoked ham, topped with a spicy sauce. His girlfriend got the Spinach Chicken sandwich - a grilled chicken breast topped with a creamed spinach sauce and cheese. Both looked great.
And my horseradish encrusted halibut was good - not great, but very edible. There wasn't much of a horseradish taste to it, but the fish was flaky, encased in a light breading. It came with garlic mashed potatoes and a cream sauce. It was surprisingly a very light meal.
Our waiter was attentive and informative. He got a good tip. Our final bill ended up around $60 for the three of us, including tip.
If you're looking for a good meal at reasonable prices in a place that caters to men and women in business suits or golf shirts and shorts, Firkin is a wonderful place to visit. I've eaten there four or five times and have never been disappointed.