Shortly after opening casual cafe concept Il Tavolino, the Conrad Hotel has unleashed its second dining concept, a bourbon-focused restaurant with approachable yet artfully presented American fare. The expansive space boasts floor-to-ceiling windows that give way to Chicago's twinkling, holiday-ready streets and skyscrapers, and sets an elegant scene for sipping table-side cocktails crafted on a bar cart and executive chef James Lintelmann's (Boka, Charlie Trotter's) roasted Pekin duck with persimmon, celery root, and gooseberry, 48-hour beef short rib with caramelized cabbage, salsify, and huckleberry, and more.
Amy Morton and Chef Nicole Pederson, the brilliant women behind Evanston's Found Kitchen & Social House, have teamed up once more to bring a carnivore's dream to life with this meat haven set within a 19th-century horse barn. Unlike seasonally driven Found, The Barn will maintain a more traditional menu that will likely only change a couple times a year. Come hungry, and let the meat sweats commence, courtesy of a 16oz ribeye, bison bolognese, venison tartare, and Saturday-nights-only rack of lamb.
After a nearly four-year-long vacancy, the former Bonny's space has finally been revived, and while the digs are decidedly a bit more polished, the dive bar spirit lives on in this no-frills cash-only bar. Score free popcorn, a rotating selection of draft beers running 10 deep, and a few house cocktails, and brush up on your shuffle bowling skills on the bar's vintage game.
Tucked away on the second floor of the ACME Hotel, this cozy bar from The Fifty/50 Group is just the sort of nostalgic drinking oasis trendy River North has needed, complete with a short but sweet drinks menu inspired by an old-school corner store. Sip Negroni Coladas (rum, Campari, pineapple, and coconut), vibrantly hued boozy sodas, and more potent potations served in flasks.
While we've certainly mourned the loss of Oak + Char and its "MSG" wings, we're happy to report that a promising new Italian pub from the same folks who brought us Maple & Ash has opened in its place. A punk rock aesthetic (think: Italian graffiti, da Vinci sketches, and a custom colored glass chandelier) brings a touch of edginess and intrigue to the rustic space, and reflects Chef Marcos Ascencio's playful menu, which spans from a tongue-in-cheek "chopped fitness salad" studded with salumi, avocado, cheese, and Lupo dressing, to better-than-Nonna's spaghetti and meatballs and ricotta toast with black truffle honey and dill.
2016's Loop dining renaissance marches on with the arrival of this inviting new bar, where both the food and beverage programs demand to be taken seriously. Belly up to the seemingly endless marble bar for some hard-earned post-work bliss in the form of a frothy glass of craft beer, chorizo poutine laden with Tabasco-spiked gravy, steak tartare crowned with a quail egg, and ahi tuna poke.
After Headquarters Beercade swiftly closed its Lakeview location, LKH Management's beer arcade moved in. Like the brand's Andersonville and Boystown outposts, the space flaunts a retro vibe, complete with wall murals of Ms. Pac-Man, Spider-Man, and Boba Fett. As its name implies, beer and bourbon is the name of the game (aside from the arcade games, of course), but you can also enjoy a small selection of signature cocktails. Go on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays to catch live DJs.
1. Baptiste & Bottle101 E Erie St Fl 20, Chicago
2. The Barn1016 Church St, Evanston
3. The Native2417 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
4. Bodega15 E Ohio St, Chicago
5. Bar Lupo217 W Huron St, Chicago
6. City Social Kitchen & Bar120 N La Salle St, Chicago
7. Replay Beer & Bourbon2833 N Sheffield Ave, Chicago
Baptiste & Bottle, located on the 20th floor of the Conrad Hotel, specializes in bourbon and provisions, and elevated New American dishes like house charcuterie, asparagus and pimento cheese, and heritage pork. The menu opens with a quote from Mark Twain, appropriately introducing guests to the American cuisine and whiskey selections on the pages that follow. While there’s a serious cocktail program in play -- cocktail cart for tableside service included -- whiskey is front and center. The cellar selections are categorized by style (grain, aging technique, country of origin): bourbon, rye, wheat, Japanese, Irish, Canadian, Scotch. If you’re a connoisseur (or want to be), the “Bourbon Baron Program” is the Baptiste & Bottle’s whiskey education program. Three levels (you must taste 25, 50, or 75 whiskeys, respectively) grant you personalized lockers at the restaurant, premium bottles, invites to exclusive tastings, and the like. Go for the whiskey, stay for the whiskey, and soak it all up with a light plate of bone marrow and oxtail marmalade.
Tucked away down an alley in downtown Evanston, The Barn -- named for its locale in a old 19th century horse barn -- is a “modern meaterie” with a “yester-year” atmosphere from Amy Morton of Found Kitchen. The Barn is a meat-centric homage to Morton’s father, who founded eponymous steakhouse, Morton’s. The cocktails are classic, featuring familiar favorites like the Blood & Sand and Sloe Gin Fizz, and the menu (which will only change twice a year) is reflective of the restaurant’s rustic ambiance. Expect classic dishes like venison tartare, a tableside Little Gem salad, and bison Bolognese, but unlike the traditional a la carte side option at many steakhouses, steaks are served with butterball potatoes and marrow butter. The casual hideaway can be hard to find, but it’s worth the hunt for the nostalgia alone.
Any bar that boasts, “Voted the #1 bar in Chicago, by us,” is worth checking out. That bar is The Native, a neighborhood watering hole in Logan Square that not only has a sense of humor, but also has free popcorn. The family-owned tavern is decorated to evoke a sense of nostalgia -- retro light fixtures hang over leather booths, beer is served in frosted mugs, and vinyl spins on a phonograph. The shuffleboard bowling game, neon beer signs, and cash only policy also add to the vintage feel of this modern renovation on Milwaukee Ave.
Located on the second floor of River North’s ACME hotel, Bodega is a cocktail bar inspired by… well, a bodega, from the Fifty/50 team. The cocktail menu is brief but full of whimsy, with just six cocktails divided into three categories: Fizzy, Boozy, Frosty. The color-coded “Fizzy” cocktails are essentially spiked sodas --“Red” being tequila and Aperol, “Blue” comprised of gin and Blue Curacao, and “Purple” a Pisco and Crème de Violette concoction. The two cocktails served in glass flasks cover the “Boozy” category, and a lone Negroni slushy commanding the “Frosty.” In keeping with the corner store motif, the space is decorated to resemble a living room, because where else would you indulge in the delicacies bought from your local bodega?
Bar Lupo is a modern pub in River North with a punk rock Italian aesthetic. The neighborhood hangout features Italian-American fare, rock music, and art on display from local and Italian artists. The vintage furniture in the lounge is mismatched, and the walls are adorned by murals and light installations reminiscent of Roman street art. The menu is abbreviated and innovative, with a focus on house-made pastas and breads. Other signatures include potatoes Bolognese (think Italian poutine), stuffed crispy meatballs, and chicken parm (served “on the plate or between the buns”). The beverage list features 50 wine labels, eight local and Italian bees, and classic and contemporary cocktails with an Italian bent -- start your meal with a Negroni and finish with the Caffe Corretto, an espresso-and-shot service with your choice of spirit (though everyone knows espresso is best served with a amaro… when in Rome).
Located just steps from City Hall (hence the name), City Social Kitchen & Bar is an urban tavern in the Loop. The menu features contemporary and classic bar food -- charcuterie, tacos, signature burgers, salads, and steaks -- and the beverage list offers 40 beers (20 on tap), 30 wines by the glass, and about a dozen craft cocktails. City Social’s Loop locale and spacious dining room and bar areas, paired with its extensive, versatile food and beverage offerings makes it a great choice for business power lunches, workday happy hours, and pre- or post-theater dining.
The Lakeview outpost of the Andersonville-born barcade, Replay Beer & Bourbon, is much like its namesake predecessor (and its previous tenant, the now-shuttered Headquarters Beercade). The neighborhood hangout offers exactly what the name implies: re-play vintage arcade games from your childhood (Ms. Pac-Man, Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros., you get the idea), drink beer (over two dozen selections on tap), but also drink bourbon (over 50 labels to choose from). Leave your quarters at home, the arcade games are free.