History When bartender Stephen Cole left the Violet Hour in mid-2011, the cocktail crowd held its collective breath until the opening of his solo debut in November of that year. In Barrelhouse, he nailed an exhaustive list of classic cocktails and hired a kitchen staff that puts out elevated pub grub.
Crowd If you can score a table in the upstairs parlor, you’ll be among plenty of lovey-dovey couples. The pubbier main level gets loud and fratty late, complete with the occasional bro angling for a Bud.
Minutes to get a seat on a weekend night 6 (downstairs)
Minutes to order/receive first drink 4/4
Quality Whiskey classics frothed with egg white (whiskey sour, Elk’s Own) are stellar; fizzy drinks (Tom Collins, French 75) seem to be made with just-popped bubbly; and the stirred Sazerac is perfect.
Value In a city where syrupy apple “martinis” can garner $14 ($16 if there’s a rooftop involved), $11 a cocktail is money well spent.
Food Make a meal out of small plates like the wings, slicked in a gingery soy-caramel glaze and tossed with cucumber kimchi.
Final evaluation Barrelhouse hasn’t let success go to its head, maintaining high standards for food and drink and doing its best to keep the bar from turning as frat house–y as its Lincoln Park neighbors, thanks to a bouncer with a capacity-clicker.