This cozy, intimate dining room above bustling McDonough's is the perfect destination for date night. I, on the other hand, was alone on this visit, and chose to sit at a high-top table near the bar. Crooner Lafayette Chester belted out mellow pop standards and an occasional verse of "Happy Birthday," to nearby revelers. I REALLY wanted a steak, but wanted to push back at the kitchen, so I chose grilled salmon instead. The filet was nicely flavored and the right-sized portion, along with a baked potato and steamed veggies of squash, broccoli and cauliflower, was a delicious supper. I started the meal with a pair of hot, yeasty rolls and a half dozen Oysters Rockefeller -- piping hot half shells topped with melted cheese, tender spinach and plump, beautifully briny oysters. There's a small and carefully chosen wine list, comfy full-service bar and a dessert menu that I couldn't muster myself to sample -- but I'll be back again soon. Billy's Place is the kind of place where everybody knows your name -- and you're proud they do.
20 E. Perry St./231-9049
Pioneering craft beer bar The Distillery celebrated its first birthday a few weeks ago -- and shows no signs of slowing down. With nearly two dozen beers on tap and probably a hundred more, it's the city's go-to destination for innovative craft beers. Add to this a solid menu of bar food and snacks, classic silent movies or sought-after sporting events on big screens -- and you've got the makings of a great weekend or week-night outing. I like the grilled Little Mike burger (1/4 lb.), a bowl of nicely-spiced chili with savory Stout-marinaded beef and a chilly pint of beer. Apps like pretzel bites, deep-fried pickle spears and calamari make starting the party easy. It's fun, it's casual and it's a year old!
416 W. Liberty St./236-1772
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