Food & Drink » Food & Drink Feature

Twelve essential watering holes

Chicago booze enthusiasts (including Reader staffers) share their expert tips for drinking across the city, from morning to late night to the morning after.

1 comment

[Reader Bar Issue] Best bar for day drinking in winter: Handlebar

[Jonathan van Herick]Two and a half years ago, when I had the privilege of being seated across from Michael Rother of Neu! at Slows Bar BQ in Detroit, I did my patriotic duty, encouraging him to try a staple of American culinary fare: mac 'n' cheese. He declined, smiled politely, and asked, "This is children's food?" Well, I guess it is, but it's also breakfast food at Handlebar (2311 W. North), where a grown person can consume smoked-gouda vegetarian chili mac with tortilla strips, pickled jalapeño, and a fried egg while drinking three mimosas, a shot of whiskey, and a pot of coffee, all by 11:30 AM, if that sounds like something you would like to do. Jonathan van Herik, Rainbo bartender and guitarist for Disappears

Best place to day drink when you're not in the mood for natural light, or seeing anyone you know: Green Mill

[Jason Burrell]I've been warming stools at the Green Mill (4802 N. Broadway) for over 15 years, but I didn't realize it was open during the day until 2006 or so. I don't get a chance to have afternoon cocktails there often, but when I do, it is always a delight. If you catch one of those moods to disappear for a couple hours on a gloomy winter afternoon, get yourself on in there. For the first five minutes, it may feel like the saddest day of your life, but once you get settled in, you are reminded of everything that makes being a Chicagoan so great. —Jason Burrell, co-owner of the Long Room

Best stained glass in a bar: Inner Town Pub

[Julia Thiel]There's a lot to look at here: behind the bar alone there's a moose head, old-fashioned cash register, classic beer steins, and figurines including several owls, a Santa, and at least one sad clown. But an eclectic collection of ephemera in a bar, while charming, is pretty common. My favorite part of Inner Town (1935 W. Thomas) is all the stained glass. Several Tiffany-style lamps are scattered around the place, but the best stuff is on the back wall behind the pool table: a large window with a blue-and-white Inner Town Pub logo at the center, surrounded by circles and swirls in (mostly) primary colors. It's flanked by two smaller windows, each showing a martini glass framed against a full moon (or possibly a sun). Julia Thiel, Reader staff writer

Best tap room not yet open: The Lagunitas Tap Room

[Adam Vavrick]Lagunitas is renowned (some might say notorious) for the parties they throw, so much so that I've vacationed in Petaluma [the California home of the brewery's infamous tap room] five years straight. The summer opening of the tap room and brewery in Douglas Park will no doubt showcase their unique sense of humor. I just hope they bring the saddle bar stool. —Adam Vavrick, Binny's beer manager

Best bar for learning what fresh hop cones smell like: Hopleaf

[PhilipMontoro]The hop bines in the beer garden behind the bar at Hopleaf (5148 N. Clark) bloom in late summer. Roll a flower gently between your thumb and forefinger and give it a good sniff (maybe wait till nobody's looking first). You will instantly understand why our ancestors were compelled to invent a way to incorporate that smell into an intoxicating beverage. Philip Montoro, Reader music editor

Best two-stop bar hop: Tally Ho and Ward Eight

[ChaNell Marshall]Go after-work wild one evening and catch the Purple Line Express to a mini bar crawl on Rogers Park's evolving Howard Street. First grab a few bites at Sol Café (1615 W. Howard). Then stroll to Tally Ho (1951 W. Howard): old regulars, a chill vibe, and good DJs spinning R&B and reggae. Enjoy affordable rounds of mixed drinks. Play free pool. Appreciate the pictured middle-aged patrons of yore. Then let the night crescendo. Cross sides to Ward Eight (629 W. Howard, Evanston). For a cocktail that rolls off the tongue, leaving something reminiscent of Havana in mind, ask owner Cody for a Cigar. Or if that smokeless fix doesn't appeal, try the liberating Semester Abroad. The staff have made this a place to savor the night. Never mind that you're now in Evanston. —ChaNell Marshall, cocktail enthusiast

Best late-night snack to inhale after soaking up Pilsen's arts subculture: Skylark tater tots

[Luca Cimarusti]Maybe you're in the third hour of traipsing through endless living-room galleries during a Second Friday, or you're in the midst of watching five harsh noise sets at a Pilsen warehouse space, but you've got the munchies—most likely brought on by heavy consumption of canned beer. South-side staple Skylark (2149 S. Halsted) has cheap drafts and the crispiest damn tater tots you've ever tasted in your life, served with three dipping sauces (ranch, honey mustard, and barbecue) and available deep into the night. Luca Cimarusti, Reader music listings coordinator

Best spots for postshift drinks: Barrelhouse Flat and Drawing Room

[Erin Hayes]After a busy weekend shift, I definitely need a little decompression before calling it a night. In a city full of bars with late-night hours, I've got a lot of options, but of course I have my favorites. Typically for an after-work nightcap you can find me at either Barrelhouse Flat (2624 N. Lincoln) or the Drawing Room (937 N. Rush). Most of the time I just want to grab a quick beer, but the options at both of these cocktail bars are endless, whether it's been a night that calls for whiskey, champagne, or a serious cocktail. —Erin Hayes, bartender at La Sirena Clandestina and the Gage

Best Logan Square Bar not technically in Logan Square: Small Bar Logan Square

[Kevin Warwick]North of Diversey, whatever. Actually located in Avondale, the original Small Bar (2956 N. Albany) can claim Logan Square all it wants, both because it has seniority over most bars in the neighborhood—the building's been standing since 1907, in its current incarnation since 2002—and because it offers a pleasant break from the area's invading empire of craft-cocktail pomp. Tucked back by the Kennedy at Albany and Wellington, Small Bar has a substantial list of amenities: above-average bar fare (tater tot mounds, yes), a stellar selection of always-rotating drafts, one of the friendliest bartending staffs, a cozy and shaded outdoor patio, the Bulls on TV, and oxygen. A jukebox consisting solely of Springsteen albums produced between '73 and '82 would be nice, too, but that's getting greedy. Kevin Warwick, Reader associate editor

Best place to brunch and booze away your post-Reader Bar Guide hangover: The Publican

[Mara Shalhoup]You've had one of those weeks. You were snowed in but climbed out. You figured things would come together (somehow, they always do), but things came together differently this week—harder but better—and that calls for a reward. You go to the Publican (837 W. Randolph). You order a Bloody Mary (vodka, not white whiskey, with a Victory ale beer back and house-pickled vegetables and plenty of celery bitters) because of course you do. You don't order another, you don't even order champagne, because you honestly don't need to. You eat eggs poached in red wine and realize all eggs should be poached in red wine. You taste what your friend's having and find that it's just as good, probably because smoked paprika and pine nuts and cauliflower are a less decadent companion to eggs than red wine but no less ideal. You get the sense that even if there isn't balance in the universe there is balance in this restaurant at this moment. You've just had the perfect end to one of those weeks. Mara Shalhoup, Reader editor

Return to the Reader's Bar Issue.


Showing 1-1 of 1


Add a comment