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Wicker Park and Bucktown are booming, but not all nightlife revolves around the six-corners intersection. Cortland's Garage provides the neighborhood with a cozy, off-the-beaten-path spot for cocktails. The folks behind now-shuttered Goodbar and Loft Six Ten spruced up and stripped down the former Leopard Lounge. Exposed brick walls and a mirror-backed bar keep things clean and simple; a DJ spins from an elevated corner booth; flat-screen TVs showcase the big games; and a front garage-door facade keeps the fresh air flowing. The garage element carries over into the mechanic-themed cocktail menu and black-and-white garage photos on the wall, but that's as far as the theme goes at this down-to-earth spot.
A food menu debuted in fall '08, brimming with tasty burgers courtesy of former Cafe Le Coq chef Jim August. Options go far beyond standard, from a white cheddar and sprout-topped veggie burger on a whole-grain bun to an Italian burger with pesto mayo, roasted red peppers and provolone. The best accompaniment? Fries, for sure. Options range from spicy chili-lime to parmesan.