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The bar scene is so warmly enveloping that it’s easy to forget that behind you, within a forest of wooden pillars and stained glass, is a large restaurant. It’s here that you can get the famous Canadian baby back ribs, which come by the slab or the “slab and a half.” There’s also prime rib, fried chicken, fish and chips, French dip, burgers and everything else you would expect at a stick-to-your-ribs chop house like Miller’s. (The kitchen is open until 2 a.m. and makes for a much better option that room service at the Palmer House, or any other downtown hotel.)
Look closely at the many framed photos on the walls and you’ll find the four brothers who made Miller’s what it is today. The big secret is none of them were named Miller. Pete, Nick and Jimmy Gallios brought the business from the hapless Millers in 1950; in 1953, brother Vannie joined them. No one could afford to change the sign, so the name stuck. (The building Miller’s occupies isn’t the original location; that was a nearby Adams Street address that is now the site of a parking garage. The current home is actually the former setting of the Wabash Inn and Vannie’s, two other Gallios restaurants. Luckily, the façade looks 85 years old.)
Photos attest to the fact that Miller’s has had its share of celebrity regulars, particularly sports figures. Celebrities that played the swanky Empire Room at the Palmer often ended their evenings at Miller’s. Still, the pub is no elite hideaway. It has always felt like the sort of place where any lost tourist or schlub just off the slushy streets of downtown would feel at home. Years ago, Chicago newspaperman Rick Kogan once called it the “proletariat Pump Room.” More recently, another Chicago journalist observed “few places in Chicago are more Chicago than Miller’s Pub.” That’s just about the finest compliment a Windy City restaurant can hope for.
Robert Simonson writes about cocktails, spirits and bars for The New York Times. He is the author of four books on cocktails, most recently “Mezcal and Tequila Cocktails” and “The Martini Cocktail,” which won a Spirited Award in 2020 and was nominated for awards from the James Beard Foundation and the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). Follow him on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.