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Chicago's Best Cocktail and Wine Bars


BryanZ
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In but two days I turn 21 and will take my first official steps down the long road toward a lifetime of borderline alcoholism. In order to make this journey as simple as possible, I'm asking for your help.

I am looking for a collection of Chicago's best cocktail and wine bars. I don't really care about a trendy scene, cool music, or anything like that. What I'm looking for is crafted drinks and a knowledgeable staff that can shepherd me on my journey.

Do such establishments exist in Chicago?

I know New York is going through something of a cocktail renaissance in the past couple years and am wondering if such a movement has taken root here. I've been following the opening of The Violet Hour, and based on what I've read this is exactly the type of place I'm looking for. Are there wine bars that follow in the same vein of being low key and very product focused? I'll also consider places that can teach me all about beer, though this is of slightly less importance.

I appreciate the help.

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My favorite wine bar is Webster wine bar on (strangely enough) Webster between clybourn and ashland. It's mellow, libraryesque srtting, outstanding array of wines, ports, ect and extremly knowlagable staff make it a perfect way to while away a wait for the movies, or a place to discuss the movie you just saw.

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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As far as beer goes The Hopleaf (my favorite), Map Room, The Beer Bistro, and Goose Island are all places that will have a selection of beers that you are not going to normally find in other bars. Also The Gage is a new place that opened on Michigan Ave. I have found the bartenders there to be particularly knowledgeable about the beer they serve

People have told me that Bin 36 is a good place for wine flights. I have never been so maybe someone else can confirm or deny this rumor.

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I've been to Bin to eat a couple of times to eat and based on the wines I've seen on offer they're kind of generic-y. Not that this is a problem, as the prices are more than fair, I'm just not super impressed with the place. I feel like it's like the Target of restaurants, got some interesting stuff worth looking for (in food, wine, and cheese) but on the whole doesn't have cred of somewhere a bit smaller and more boutique.

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Had a wonderful night at Hop Leaf the last time I was in Chicago.

It's a bit out of the way from downtown; but, tasty well made bistro type food and an amazing selection of beers.

Blew us away that they had Rodenbach Red (not a beginner beer!) on tap. I didn't even think it was available in the US.

Definitely recommended.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Had a wonderful night at Hop Leaf the last time I was in Chicago.

It's a bit out of the way from downtown; but, tasty well made bistro type food and an amazing selection of beers.

Blew us away that they had Rodenbach Red (not a beginner beer!) on tap.  I didn't even think it was available in the US.

Definitely recommended.

I agree! I was there earlier this week, and it was a great place for beer. I also had some mussles that were good.

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Is Clark St. Ale House still a good spot for beer? In prior visits to Chicago, I've found lots of good local microbrews on tap there.

<tangential rant>

As for seeing Rodenbach Red on tap, it's really getting to gall me how many of these incredibly special bottle-conditioned Belgian brews are showing up on tap. I know that "freshness" is so emphasized with beer, and bottles may seem anathema to that, but the difference between a well-kept bottle-conditioned beer and a keg of the same can be massive. Recently, I had a couple rounds at a small Belgian beer bar in Manhattan, and the bartender tried to steer my friend to La Chouffe on tap, when they also had it in bottles. I took that opportunity to order one bottle and one from the tap. My friend got a very quick lesson in how best to order Belgian beers.

</tangential rant>

Christopher

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In order to make this journey as simple as possible, I'm asking for your help.

I am looking for a collection of Chicago's best cocktail and wine bars. I don't really care about a trendy scene, cool music, or anything like that. What I'm looking for is crafted drinks and a knowledgeable staff that can shepherd me on my journey.

Do such establishments exist in Chicago?

Beer and wine are just fine: buy and store sensibly, open, pour into the right glass. For "crafted drinks and a knowledgeable staff," though, there are few if any places that combine fresh, interesting, thoughtfully chosen foodstuffs with alcohol as well as Nacional 27 at Orleans and Huron. Their mixologist has a level of expertise you just won't find elsewhere, while their chef haunts the Green Market for fresh and brings in exotica from Latin America. The combination yields great drinking that stimulates the mind as well as the tastebuds.

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[...]

<tangential rant>

As for seeing Rodenbach Red on tap, it's really getting to gall me how many of these incredibly special bottle-conditioned Belgian brews are showing up on tap.  I know that "freshness" is so emphasized with beer, and bottles may seem anathema to that, but the difference between a well-kept bottle-conditioned beer and a keg of the same can be massive.  Recently, I had a couple rounds at a small Belgian beer bar in Manhattan, and the bartender tried to steer my friend to La Chouffe on tap, when they also had it in bottles.  I took that opportunity to order one bottle and one from the tap.  My friend got a very quick lesson in how best to order Belgian beers.

</tangential rant>

<tangential>

Well, fair enough. It appears they no longer have it on tap, so it may have been a special keg when we were visiting. We were more stoked that they had it at all than anything else. I have been surprised by how many of the Belgian brewers and distributors have been pushing their taps in the last 5 years or so. Chimay, Leffe, Urthel, etc.

That said, I love drinking Russian River's wonderful Belgian Style cask conditioned ales on tap, especially at the brewery. Good stuff! The beers do seem to be less flavorful when I have them out at bars. Freshness and care of kegs and lines, I imagine.

But, anyway, this discussion is probably better carried out in the beer forum!

</tangential>

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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well your b-day is over at this point but, how did avec not get mentioned? (for a wine bar option) next door to blackbird and owned by the same people.

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well your b-day is over at this point but, how did avec not get mentioned? (for a wine bar option) next door to blackbird and owned by the same people.

Someone suggested Avec in BryanZ's LTH thread with the same question (it gets a little complicated when you have the same query running on two websites). He's since reported on two visits to Avec.

I agree that Avec belongs in any discussion about wine bars in Chicago. They don't have the diversity of wines that places like Webster Wine Bar or Bin 36 have, but they have a very large selection of affordable, food friendly wines, focusing on southern France and Spain.

Edited by Darren72 (log)
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