Update December 2014: On my first couple review visits to Analogue, I fell hard for Alfredo Nogueira's Cajun food, like the light smoked fish dip, fluffy biscuits served with pepper jelly and a fried chicken sandwich on toast. But the cocktails were kind of lackluster, and certainly weren't the main draw. And then I went back, and back again, at first for the food, then both the food and drinks. The cocktails have gotten better and better over time, so much so that I'm revising my star rating, from 3 to 4. This is a comfortable, low-key cocktail bar, where you can get an excellent cocktail like a bourbon and sherry cobbler and a terrific plate of food. In the year it's been open, Analogue has already become one of my favorite bars in Chicago.—AC
Bar review by Amy Cavanaugh
I was talking recently with one of my favorite bartenders (who will remain nameless), who said I had to go try the gumbo at Analogue, which opened in Logan Square in December. “They put potato salad in the middle, which is just like they do in the South!”
And then I started hearing reports from friends, praising the smoked fish dip, the fried chicken sandwich and the Scotch egg, all of which have Cajun twists.
There hasn’t been nearly as much talk about the drinks, made by Violet Hour vets Henry Prendergast and Robert Haynes. The pair were aiming to open a cocktail bar that’s more accessible than the Violet Hour—“We kind of want to loosen it up here and have more fun with it,” Prendergast told us—and they’re doing it with a short list of drinks, which are well-made and feature four ingredients or less. (Although, a bartender did ask if I “knew what I was getting into” when I ordered the purl no. 1, a bitter beer cocktail made with blackberry, anise and gentian, which makes me wonder why there are cocktails on the menu they don’t expect people to like.)
And I did like the purl, just not as much as other drinks on the menu, like Strike Anywhere, a Manhattan variation made with Yahara Bay V Bourbon, DeMuth Vermouth, Montmorency cherry and Angostura. Analogue is the only place in the city you can try the new Letherbee Fernet, and in Double Take it’s mixed with Letherbee gin and Punt e Mes vermouth. But the standout drink is Good Morning, Captain, a complex cocktail made with Ed Hamilton’s funky Jamaican gold rum (which was one of our favorite finds at the Indie Spirits Expo last fall), blackstrap molasses, tobacco and a whole egg.
But after ordering a table full of food, I know why everyone has been focusing on Alfredo Nogueira’s (Flipside Café, Rootstock) menu—it completely steals attention away from the drinks. The smoked whitefish dip is bright and lively, and you pile it onto a Saltine and top it with hot sauce. The spicy Scott, Louisiana is a soft-boiled egg wrapped in Boudin sausage, which is served with pickled peppers and creole mustard. The gumbo is laden with shredded chicken and housemade Andouille, and the potato salad cools the spice. The only miss was the mushroom debris po’boy, which had so many French fries it tasted like a fry sandwich covered with mushroom gravy, lettuce and tomatoes so out of season they looked white.
Later in the evening, a DJ goes on in the booth over the door. Hoping to avoid that, we went early in the evening on two visits, but even at 7pm it’s really dark and the music cuts into conversation. We wished for more light and quiet to fully rhapsodize about the gumbo, but Analogue is primarily a bar and the trappings of the bar must come with it.
Update 9/2014: Analogue's food menu continues to evolve, with more full-size plates, like a lovely rendition of red beans and rice and meat-packed jambalaya. A newly added brunch is another reason to visit Analogue more frequently, while the cocktail program gets better and better. It's one of our favorite openings of 2014.