Formerly known as the Little Cave, Highland Park's dive-turned-Mexican-cocktail-den has been morphed into La Cuevita. The theme here is Día de Los Muertos, where skulls, skeletons and upside-down bats unapologetically grace mescal and tequila-lined shelves. The slightly kitschy, multi-room space feels like a dark and moody movie set—a haze of streetlight permeate the stained-glass windows, while dim amber bulbs emanate from wrought iron chandeliers. After a couple potent mescal margaritas, you'll begin to wonder if a hidden back door leads to an Aztec temple for a Tarantino-style beheading.
Good for: Mexican-themed outings. Groups will nary run a huge bar tab during happy hour (daily 7-10pm) when cocktails such as smoky mescal margaritas and Bloody Marys are $5 and beers, $3 and Taco Tuesdays, when tortilla-bar bites are free after 10pm.
The scene: Beyond the bouncer, smokers congregate in a narrow outdoor patio and locals young and new, in various forms of dishevelment, soak up daily drink specials and weekly taco nights.
The playlist: Perhaps an odd playlist for a Mexican-themed bar, classic Americana rock (i,e. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Billy Joel) lend a throwback atmosphere. Local DJs take to the turn tables with punk and new wave beats, as tattooed locals take to the dance floor.
The bartender says: Gone are the days when bikers and gangsters would frequent this watering hole. With the revamp, the neighborhood fixture now sees young locals more interested in cocktails than bar brawls.
Drink this: Classic drinks get a Mexican twist—we like the popular Smoky Margarita made with Los Javis Silver mescal and Mole Manhattan spiked with chocolate chile bitters and crème de cacao.