There was once a Bermuda triangle of cocktail destinations in Logan Square. One of the triangle's three points was occupied by Lula, that elegant old-timer—at least by Logan standards—who tolerates crowds but never rowdiness (she retires early). Charting a course north-northwest you'd encounter the second point, the rough-hewn Longman & Eagle—a place that not only encourages rowdiness but will offer you a place to crash upstairs. And to the southeast of the two there laid in wait that siren of craft cocktail bars, the Whistler: pared down, a little esoteric, also packed. Travel too frequently between the three and you might find yourself in a expertly stirred vortex from which escape is tricky. (And at the end of that black hole is the Owl. But that's another story.)
Now, however, it's more accurate to say that the neighborhood is home not to a triangle of cocktail destinations but a square. And while those three aforementioned places run the gamut from feminine sophistication (Lula) to masculine heartiness (Longman) to minimalist restraint (the Whistler), Scofflaw stands apart, too: as a rebellious mix of the baroque and the affordable. And unlike the others, which offer either coursed menus (Longman, Lula) or no menu at all (the Whistler), Scofflaw fills a local void with creative, underpriced bar food.
Chef Mickey Neely is perhaps best known for Scofflaw's most secret offering: the guapichosa, an absurd (and absurdly good) sandwich layered with, among other things, brisket, pork belly, pork loin, pimenton aioli, avocado, sriracha, whole-grain mustard, creme fraiche, pickled cauliflower, and pickled onion. For the more faint of heart, there's an off-menu vegetarian sandwich as well, loaded with fried cauliflower, roasted carrots, wilted greens, and onion soubise. It's downright dainty by comparison but perfectly equipped to stand up to Scofflaw's signature gin cocktails (more on those momentarily).
It should be noted that, at $12, the guapichosa is by far the most expensive thing you'll encounter at Scofflaw. All of the cocktails are $8, and no other food item on a menu of decent-sized small plates exceeds that price. What's more, the quality and thoughtfulness of many of the dishes suggest a much higher cost. A mizuna salad dressed in creamy radish vinaigrette sat atop a large brioche crouton reminiscent of a potato croquette. The rich finishes—a deftly cooked, jiggly-not-runny egg and a thick sheet of pristine avocado—raised the dish to at least $10 status.
A generous portion of pork belly almost veered off course with a sauce just shy of Chinese-takeout cloying. But the pork's tender perfection—and the pleasantly acidic cucumber salad accompanying it—righted the dish.
Though you might be tempted to drink your dessert, that would mean you'd miss the blackberry-lavender sorbet with ginger granola, and that would be foolish because it's something you'll want to eat every day. Neely: please keep it on the menu as long as you can.
Of course, opting for dessert doesn't mean opting out of another cocktail. Head mixologist and co-owner Danny Shapiro has mixed more than his fair share of drinks across the square at the Whistler, and his gin-centric cocktail menu doesn't feel overly derivative of his prior digs. In fact, Scofflaw's cocktails very much reflect the mood of the place, with its flickering lights (and, in the colder months, flickering fire), its Louis XV armchairs and settees, its exposed brick and French-blue walls. Even the mismatched glassware is spot-on.
And what goes into those glasses? The Rocket Frost (currently off the menu, hopefully soon to return) is thoughtfully dotted with Ango bitters to offset the eggy smell that would otherwise punctuate a drink that—along with Small's gin, pear brandy, lime, and grenadine—relies on the egg white's smooth froth. The Basil Bramble is a 100-degree-day antidote—one that combines North Shore #11 gin with lemon juice, Combier Mure, and, yes, basil, over crushed ice.
Frankly, I've drank my way through most of the cocktail menu and have yet to encounter a dud. On an early visit, I found Shapiro to be so skilled a barkeep that he was able to graciously mix and muddle under the glazed and puzzled watch of the PBR-and-fries contingency parked at the bar. In the months since, as Scofflaw cemented its identity as a cornerstone of the square, such visitors are an increasingly rare occurrence. But the place is so friendly that they'd never be an unwelcome one.