St. Patrick's Day isn't just a drinking holiday. On the contrary, it's one of the best food holidays of the year, with restaurants, bars, and bakeries celebrating Irish heritage through a miscellany of unique specials. This year, the variety taking shape throughout Chicago includes everything from gourmet riffs on Shamrock Shakes to Guinness pizzas.
Baker & Nosh (1303 W. Wilson Ave.)
In terms of baked goods, few things personify St. Patrick's Day quite like good old fashioned soda bread. A version of it is being made this month at Uptown's Baker & Nosh. Available for pre-order now through St. Patrick's Day, the bread is baked fresh daily and made with raisins and caraway seeds.
Shake Shack (66 E. Ohio St. and 12 S. Michigan Ave.)
Things are getting minty at Shake Shack, which is giving its frozen custard an Irish makeover for the week of March 14 through March 20. They're offered in both shake and concrete form, made with Mast Brothers Chocolate and mint, available along with the regular menu fixtures.
25 Degrees (736 N. Clark St. and 2015 W. Division St.)
One of the holiday's biggest guilty pleasures, the Shamrock Shake gets crafty at 25 Degrees. The burger-focused bar is featuring its own rendition this year at both locations from March 12 through March 17. It's made with Crown Royal, Creme de Menthe, whipped cream, and Lucky Charms.
The Dawson (730 W. Grand Ave.)
Traditional and contemporary Irish dishes and drinks are on hand at The Dawson for a special celebration on March 12. Courtesy of Billy Lawless and chef Shaun King, specials include Irish nachos, fish and chips, and a corned beef and cabbage melt, along with drinks like an Irish Old Fashioned, Irish coffee, and something called Hell-Cat Maggie, made with Teeling Irish whisky, Bols Genever, ginge, lime, pear, and clover. Specials are available March 12 from 10:30 a.m. until 12:00 a.m.
Bar Toma (110 E. Pearson St.)
Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar (3358 N. Paulina St.)
Pizza adapts an Irish accent at both Bar Toma and Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar (pictured at top), where a duo of specials offer a highly unique twist on the St. Patrick's Day regulars. At Bar Toma, The Lean Green is a wood-fired pizza made with spinach and basil pesto, mozzarella, and grape tomatoes, and it's on hand all month long. Frasca, meanwhile, combines pizza and beer in one glorious pie made with a Guinness stout crust, béchamel sauce, roasted onions, fingerling potatoes, bacon, three cheeses, and an egg. It's on offer March 17 only.
GreenRiver (259 E. Erie St.)
In cocktail news, GreenRiver is giving Irish coffee a pretty elegant upgrade with a cocktail being served throughout March. Courtesy of head bartender Julia Momose, the drink contains Jameson Caskmates, which is a special edition whisky aged in stout-seasoned casks, plus Cynar, amaro, house-blend coffee, and housemade whipped cream with grated nutmeg.
more Cupcakes (1 E. Delaware Pl.)
Don't forget dessert. And by that I mean the gorgeous chocolate-Guinness cupcakes at more, which manages to make Guinness look prettier than it's ever looked before.
Delightful Pastries (1710 N. Wells St., 131 N. Clinton St., and 5927 W. Lawrence Ave.)
Another apt spot to stock up on Irish-inspired sweets is Delightful Pastries. The bakery, with locations in Jefferson Park, Old Town, and the Chicago French Market, is making several special confections this month, including Jameson whisky- and chocolate-covered doughnuts, Irish soda bread, Irish blueberry scones, and shamrock-shaped cookies. For something savory, don't overlook the spinach lamb pie. All are available March 10 through March 17.
For a rundown of all the parades and special events to pair with these green-themed foods, check out the St. Patrick's Day Chicago 2016 Guide.
Photo credits: The Dawson by Nathan Michael, GreenRiver by Kailley Lindman