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Chicago bar reviews

Where should you drink tonight? Read our reviews of Chicago bars to find the best spots for cocktails, beer or wine.

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With hundreds of bars to pick from, Chicago's bar scene can be daunting. Make your decision easier with our bar reviews, with our picks for the best cocktail bars, best wine bars, best beer bars and more.

RECOMMENDED: Guide to the best bars in Chicago

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Lazy Bird
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • West Loop

This basement bar in the West Loop is easily one of the best new bars of the year.

Carol鈥檚 Pub
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Uptown
  • price 1 of 4

Uptown’s famous late-night honky tonk tavern is back from the dead and good as ever.

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Bar S贸tano
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • River North

Team Bayless’s high-spirited speakeasy is worth the trip for inventive, mezcal-focused cocktails.

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Neon Wilderness
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Wicker Park

Equal parts neighborhood joint and refined cocktail bar, Brad Bolt’s good-humored watering hole is just what Wicker Park needed.

Good Measure
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • River North

This snug, punk-tinged cocktail bar fills a void in River North and slings lip-smacking drinking food, to boot.

Time Out loves

Lazy Bird
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • West Loop

I鈥檝e been thinking a lot about the Cheers theme song and the idea of a place 鈥渨here everybody knows your name.鈥 The thing is, on nights when I can sneak away and splurge on a round of craft cocktails, I seek out places where no one knows my name. It鈥檚 not that I鈥檓 anti-social鈥攎ore than anything, it鈥檚 about reveling in quality time with close friends. Lazy Bird, the bar in the basement of the Hoxton hotel helmed by Lee Zaremba, ticks all the right boxes for that kind of night out. The space is so dimly lit that you can barely see across the room, and seating is configured in a way that gives each party a sense of privacy鈥攅ven if you are seated two feet away from the next table. And don鈥檛 plan on checking your email or Instagram feed while you鈥檙e here; the subterranean space is a black hole for cell service. Those qualities alone make Lazy Bird a solid watering hole. But when you toss in Zaremba鈥檚 pi猫ce de r茅sistance of a menu鈥攁 whopping 52 classic cocktails that have been refined and perfected鈥攖his place easily enters Best New Bar of 2019 territory. Just as my date and I snagged seats along the wall opposite the bar, our server presented us with a beautiful book of聽tipples to choose from鈥攅ach accompanied by hand-drawn illustrations from Kate Dehler and bite-sized descriptions penned by Zaremba. When we asked for a second menu so that we could browse simultaneously, our server told us that there weren鈥檛 enough to go around. As soon as we ordered our first sips鈥攁n Aviation for m

The Drifter
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

Like the first time I tried to go to the Violet Hour and walked straight past the door, I had no idea how to get into the Drifter, a new bar located underneath Green Door Tavern. But while the Violet Hour was Chicago鈥檚 first nouveau speakeasy, bar culture has changed over the past eight years鈥攏ow, when a bar claims to be a speakeasy, all that means is that it鈥檚 dark, with well-made cocktails and bartenders in retro clothes. The Drifter breaks the mold, since it鈥檚 actually located in an old speakeasy space, and it鈥檚 missing the pretentious trappings a lot of cocktail bars have. In speakeasy days, people would enter a door a couple blocks away and get into the bar through a window, which has been covered over. We had to ask at Green Door how to get in, so I鈥檒l save you the trouble: Walk through Green Door, head downstairs and enter through the wooden door that鈥檚 next to the restrooms. There鈥檚 no sign, but if the door guy isn鈥檛 there taking names for a waitlist that grows longer as the night goes on (though we walked right in at 5:30pm on a Saturday), knock and he鈥檒l let you in. Once inside, the space is dark, cozy and full of objects that were already there when bartender Liz Pearce (Gage, Drawing Room, Aviary) took over the unused space. There are old paintings, like one of FDR that overlooks the end of the bar, a bullet-riddled Mobil sign, flags billowing from the ceiling and dozens of dusty old bottles lined up atop the bar. It鈥檚 a comfortable, low-key spot to hang out, and

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

There鈥檚 a lovely moment in Won鈥檛 You Be My Neighbor?鈥攖he HBO documentary on the late Fred Rogers鈥攖hat discusses the importance of creating quiet spaces. A peeler slowly works its way around an apple; Rogers sets an egg timer to show the actual length of a minute. It鈥檚 meant to reject the loud, crude mass media aimed at children in television鈥檚 early days, but it also echoes the overstimulation with which many of us live, work and eat now, thanks to a certain device we keep glued to our sides. But from the moment I entered Kumiko鈥檚 plant-filled foyer to a welcome cup of cinnamon chai tea, a sense of meditative calm washed over me. This Japanese-inspired cocktail bar and restaurant from Julia Momose (GreenRiver), Cara and Noah Sandoval and chef de cuisine Mariya Russell (all Oriole), is one of measured pace and care. Kumiko鈥檚 eight-seat omakase bar lends a peek into the humming kitchen through an intricately carved wood shade that acts as a focal point of the restaurant. My date and I had booked our barstools about a month in advance for the $130 omakase experience, in which Momose and her skilled team pair a series of fixed Japanese bites with sakes and bespoke cocktails. 鈥淒o you tend to go for bright and citrusy? Bitter or savory?鈥 asked our meticulously suited bartender once we were settled. His easy warmth goaded me into oversharing beyond my cocktail preferences in the same way I sometimes psychologically unload on hospitable baristas. A progression of nigiri came first. C

Lost Lake
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Avondale
  • price 2 of 4

When Lost Lake opened, it was billed as a "tiki bar," with all of the tropical decor, rum-forward drinks and colorful garnishes you'd expect. But co-owners Paul McGee and Shelby Allison have since sought to distance Lost Lake from ts original theme, acknowledging the cultural appropriation that's inherent in the asthetic of establishments that serve Mai Tais and play Hawaiian music on their soundsystems. The island vibes and many signature cocktails (including the Tic Tac Taxi, made with rum, coconut, passionfruit and lime) remain intact, but when Lost Lake reopens its聽indoor space later this year, there will likely be some new items hanging on the walls and an updated playlist to enjoy while you sip your beautifully-garnished beverage. For now, you can enjoy cocktails to-go from a window in front of the Logan Square bar.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Logan Square

For a long time, the neighborhood joint and wine bar felt like opposing ideals. By definition, the corner bar鈥攚ith its cheap draughts and worn-in look鈥攊s built on approachability, while wine bars historically seemed to ooze with pretense, reserved for those fluent in vino classification tables. Thanks to inviting spots like Rootstock, Income Tax and Red & White, Chicago鈥檚 wine scene has grown more inclusive for those of us who don鈥檛 know much about the stuff beyond the fact that we like drinking it. New Logan Square watering hole Outside Voices takes that mission a step further, blurring the lines between the neighborhood tavern and a proper wine bar. This delightful storefront is sandwiched between two other beloved spots from the same owners鈥攇in-focused cocktail den Scofflaw and sporty pub the Moonlighter. Like its siblings, vino-centric Outside Voices leans pricier than your everyday pub, but the vibe is unmistakably no fuss. Led by beverage manager Davis Sayer, the bar mostly eschews the pretense that often comes with wine鈥攁nd not just because the staff has an affinity for flannel button-downs and playing Heart on vinyl. You feel it within 15 seconds of sidling up to the bar to peruse the menu. Rather than putting the onus on the drinker to decide on a style (Whites from France? Cabernets?), the daily-changing menu of whites, reds, ros茅s and orange, and bubbles focuses on individual flavors and textures in each of the 20-odd available wines. Bartenders take a similar tact

Three Dots and a Dash
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

Bar review by Amy Cavanaugh There are, it seems, two聽Three Dots and a Dash. There鈥檚 the crowded, noisy Three Dots, where a DJ plays Justin Timberlake and you鈥檙e lucky to get a seat鈥攁nd even if you do, someone will be elbowing you in the back as they urge their friend to 鈥淐hug! Chug! Chug!鈥 their marigold-accented tiki drink. Then there鈥檚 the serene tiki bar, where you can sit at the raffia-decorated bar and listen to island-themed music while you eat coconut shrimp. I just can鈥檛 seem to find the second Three Dots. I鈥檝e been to the bar聽on several occasions, weekdays and weekends, at 5:15pm, right after Three Dots opens, and at 11:15pm for a nightcap after dinner. No matter when I go, the bar is raucous and the music is loud. Friends swear they鈥檝e been to Three Dots when it鈥檚 quiet and you don鈥檛 have to yell at your companions to be heard. I haven鈥檛 found that magic time yet. But it鈥檚 River North, right? And Three Dots is the hot new bar, and a Melman project at that, so of course people are going to line up in the alley, where a blue light marks the door and a bouncer with an earpiece checks IDs, right? Right. So I鈥檓 going to move on and tell you why you should pack your earplugs and just go anyway. First of all, you won鈥檛 realize how much you were missing perfectly made tiki drinks in your life until you have one here. Since Trader Vic鈥檚 closed in 2011, there hasn鈥檛 been a dedicated tiki bar in the city, and we鈥檝e needed one. These aren鈥檛 frozen daiquiris dispensed from a mac

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The Aviary
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

When Grant Achatz does a cocktail bar, it should go without saying that it's no ordinary cocktail bar. At the Aviary, which opened next door to Next in 2011, cocktails receive the same innovative treatment from beverage director Micah Melton as the food at Next or Alinea. That is to say, you should expect to drink cocktails like the Junglebird, a science experiment in liquid density, with layers of rum, campari, pineapple-lime syrup and rum "pearls" suspended in the drink. O'Doyle Rules comes with a fried banana snack on top of the rum-curry-cognac concoction, while Loaded to the Gunwalls is delivered with a single tapered candle. The drink, with pineapple, hazelnut and Batavia Arrack, is served in a glass ship in a bottle. You've never seen a drink like it, and given how rare a visit to the Aviary is, you may never again.

Celeste
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • River North
  • price 3 of 4

Bar review by Amy Cavanaugh Before a new bar or restaurant opens, chefs and publicists usually inundate social media with updates, obsessively document recipe testing via Instagram, and provide 鈥渇irst looks鈥 to every media outlet in town. By the time the place actually opens, you鈥檝e already seen everything. 聽 Not so with Celeste, which I listed as 鈥渘ew bar in Swirl Wine Bar space鈥 under 鈥渄ate unknown鈥 on the document I use to track new openings, right up until February 3, the day it actually opened.聽 The lack of buzz means two things: One, there鈥檚 plenty to discover on a menu that hasn鈥檛 obsessively been covered. And two, you can get a seat. Celeste has become a popular industry spot鈥攐n my first visit, Sepia head bartender Griffin Elliot was sitting at a booth in the Deco Room upstairs; on another, I sat next to Steve Dolinsky at the first floor bar. Celeste is owned by brothers Nader, Fadi and Rafid Hindo; Freddie Sarkis (Sable Kitchen & Bar) and Sterling Field (Carriage House) handle bar duties. Former Sepia bartender Josh Pearson also helped with the opening before becoming the brand ambassador for Absolut Elyx. There are two bars: A first floor bar that鈥檚 long and sleek, with a more approachable cocktail menu and a DJ, and a quieter upstairs bar, which glows with light from big chandeliers and where Field makes cocktails that are more complex鈥攁nd more expensive. Food, from Aaron Lirette (last at Acadia, he鈥檚 been working on Celeste for the last year and a half), is availa

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The Loyalist
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

There are two options when you enter John and Karen Urie Shields鈥 Smyth + The Loyalist. You can head upstairs to Smyth for a modern fine dining experience, complete with a prix fixe menu, or you can walk downstairs to the Loyalist, a sultry bar with upscale bites (including an amazing cheeseburger) and killer cocktails. Positioned in the West Loop, the spot is perfect for a before- or after-dinner drink, but you could also spend a whole night there. The Loyalist鈥檚 cocktail menu is the centerpiece, springing from the mind of former MFK bartender Roger Landes. The menu is well rounded, with a mix of light and spirit-forward drinks, including twists on classics and more original ideas. All the cocktails have at least one special component, such as the use of Chinato in place of Campari in the Innocents Abroad with Gentiane, creating a citrusy and bitter negroni. Likewise, the Nothing Noble combines bourbon with demerara sugar, a bit of Amargo Valet and mint for an herbal twist on a classic old-fashioned. It isn鈥檛 just the variations and balance that makes these cocktails interesting鈥攖here鈥檚 also something to be said for the presentation. Drinks come in beautiful etched glass goblets and fancy thin-walled lowballs that exude quality and attention to detail. The food works well for the space too, with primarily small plates made for sharing鈥攁 sharp contrast to the fine dining dishes served upstairs. The most notable thing on the menu is the cheeseburger, served on a sesame seed bu

Queen Mary Tavern
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Ukrainian Village
  • price 2 of 4

Heisler Hospitality is on a roll this year鈥攖he group鈥檚 British-Indian beer bar, Pub Royale, opened in May, then in November, they opened Queen Mary Tavern, a bar that focuses on maritime drinking. Either theme could easily have been gimmicky, but Heisler knows how to put the right people in charge. At Queen Mary Tavern, Dan Smith and Mony Bunni have assembled a list of cocktails that鈥檚 true to the theme鈥攔um, gin and Scotch abound鈥攚hile using unexpected ingredients and offering sophisticated flavor profiles.聽 Take the Stone鈥檚 Throw, which uses tahini to add sesame notes to the smoky base of Scotch and cream, while a shower of nutmeg over the top ties it all together. Albatross combines gin and madeira with Angostura and coriander聽for an herbal sip, and St. Erasmus聽is a tall, icy swizzle with funky rum and some heat from chili. My favorite is Mood Indigo, which I can imagine an epicurean pirate assembling from the spoils of his travels; with port, St. Lucian rum, Batavia Arrack, cardamom and jaggery (cane sugar from Asia and Africa), it鈥檚 richly flavored, and a whole egg adds a smooth mouthfeel. The bar had been empty for four decades before Heisler took it over. The space previously held a neighborhood tavern run by Mary Kafka, the namesake for Queen Mary, who still lives upstairs. Many of the original pieces, like the bar, remain in place, which makes Queen Mary feel like it鈥檚 been there forever. Luckily the drink list doesn鈥檛鈥攊t鈥檚 a fresh look at three familiar spirits and a

Most popular Chicago bars

The Drifter
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

Like the first time I tried to go to the Violet Hour and walked straight past the door, I had no idea how to get into the Drifter, a new bar located underneath Green Door Tavern. But while the Violet Hour was Chicago鈥檚 first nouveau speakeasy, bar culture has changed over the past eight years鈥攏ow, when a bar claims to be a speakeasy, all that means is that it鈥檚 dark, with well-made cocktails and bartenders in retro clothes. The Drifter breaks the mold, since it鈥檚 actually located in an old speakeasy space, and it鈥檚 missing the pretentious trappings a lot of cocktail bars have. In speakeasy days, people would enter a door a couple blocks away and get into the bar through a window, which has been covered over. We had to ask at Green Door how to get in, so I鈥檒l save you the trouble: Walk through Green Door, head downstairs and enter through the wooden door that鈥檚 next to the restrooms. There鈥檚 no sign, but if the door guy isn鈥檛 there taking names for a waitlist that grows longer as the night goes on (though we walked right in at 5:30pm on a Saturday), knock and he鈥檒l let you in. Once inside, the space is dark, cozy and full of objects that were already there when bartender Liz Pearce (Gage, Drawing Room, Aviary) took over the unused space. There are old paintings, like one of FDR that overlooks the end of the bar, a bullet-riddled Mobil sign, flags billowing from the ceiling and dozens of dusty old bottles lined up atop the bar. It鈥檚 a comfortable, low-key spot to hang out, and

Lazy Bird
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • West Loop

I鈥檝e been thinking a lot about the Cheers theme song and the idea of a place 鈥渨here everybody knows your name.鈥 The thing is, on nights when I can sneak away and splurge on a round of craft cocktails, I seek out places where no one knows my name. It鈥檚 not that I鈥檓 anti-social鈥攎ore than anything, it鈥檚 about reveling in quality time with close friends. Lazy Bird, the bar in the basement of the Hoxton hotel helmed by Lee Zaremba, ticks all the right boxes for that kind of night out. The space is so dimly lit that you can barely see across the room, and seating is configured in a way that gives each party a sense of privacy鈥攅ven if you are seated two feet away from the next table. And don鈥檛 plan on checking your email or Instagram feed while you鈥檙e here; the subterranean space is a black hole for cell service. Those qualities alone make Lazy Bird a solid watering hole. But when you toss in Zaremba鈥檚 pi猫ce de r茅sistance of a menu鈥攁 whopping 52 classic cocktails that have been refined and perfected鈥攖his place easily enters Best New Bar of 2019 territory. Just as my date and I snagged seats along the wall opposite the bar, our server presented us with a beautiful book of聽tipples to choose from鈥攅ach accompanied by hand-drawn illustrations from Kate Dehler and bite-sized descriptions penned by Zaremba. When we asked for a second menu so that we could browse simultaneously, our server told us that there weren鈥檛 enough to go around. As soon as we ordered our first sips鈥攁n Aviation for m

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Lost Lake
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Avondale
  • price 2 of 4

When Lost Lake opened, it was billed as a "tiki bar," with all of the tropical decor, rum-forward drinks and colorful garnishes you'd expect. But co-owners Paul McGee and Shelby Allison have since sought to distance Lost Lake from ts original theme, acknowledging the cultural appropriation that's inherent in the asthetic of establishments that serve Mai Tais and play Hawaiian music on their soundsystems. The island vibes and many signature cocktails (including the Tic Tac Taxi, made with rum, coconut, passionfruit and lime) remain intact, but when Lost Lake reopens its聽indoor space later this year, there will likely be some new items hanging on the walls and an updated playlist to enjoy while you sip your beautifully-garnished beverage. For now, you can enjoy cocktails to-go from a window in front of the Logan Square bar.

The Aviary
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

When Grant Achatz does a cocktail bar, it should go without saying that it's no ordinary cocktail bar. At the Aviary, which opened next door to Next in 2011, cocktails receive the same innovative treatment from beverage director Micah Melton as the food at Next or Alinea. That is to say, you should expect to drink cocktails like the Junglebird, a science experiment in liquid density, with layers of rum, campari, pineapple-lime syrup and rum "pearls" suspended in the drink. O'Doyle Rules comes with a fried banana snack on top of the rum-curry-cognac concoction, while Loaded to the Gunwalls is delivered with a single tapered candle. The drink, with pineapple, hazelnut and Batavia Arrack, is served in a glass ship in a bottle. You've never seen a drink like it, and given how rare a visit to the Aviary is, you may never again.

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Three Dots and a Dash
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • River North
  • price 2 of 4

Bar review by Amy Cavanaugh There are, it seems, two聽Three Dots and a Dash. There鈥檚 the crowded, noisy Three Dots, where a DJ plays Justin Timberlake and you鈥檙e lucky to get a seat鈥攁nd even if you do, someone will be elbowing you in the back as they urge their friend to 鈥淐hug! Chug! Chug!鈥 their marigold-accented tiki drink. Then there鈥檚 the serene tiki bar, where you can sit at the raffia-decorated bar and listen to island-themed music while you eat coconut shrimp. I just can鈥檛 seem to find the second Three Dots. I鈥檝e been to the bar聽on several occasions, weekdays and weekends, at 5:15pm, right after Three Dots opens, and at 11:15pm for a nightcap after dinner. No matter when I go, the bar is raucous and the music is loud. Friends swear they鈥檝e been to Three Dots when it鈥檚 quiet and you don鈥檛 have to yell at your companions to be heard. I haven鈥檛 found that magic time yet. But it鈥檚 River North, right? And Three Dots is the hot new bar, and a Melman project at that, so of course people are going to line up in the alley, where a blue light marks the door and a bouncer with an earpiece checks IDs, right? Right. So I鈥檓 going to move on and tell you why you should pack your earplugs and just go anyway. First of all, you won鈥檛 realize how much you were missing perfectly made tiki drinks in your life until you have one here. Since Trader Vic鈥檚 closed in 2011, there hasn鈥檛 been a dedicated tiki bar in the city, and we鈥檝e needed one. These aren鈥檛 frozen daiquiris dispensed from a mac

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Logan Square

For a long time, the neighborhood joint and wine bar felt like opposing ideals. By definition, the corner bar鈥攚ith its cheap draughts and worn-in look鈥攊s built on approachability, while wine bars historically seemed to ooze with pretense, reserved for those fluent in vino classification tables. Thanks to inviting spots like Rootstock, Income Tax and Red & White, Chicago鈥檚 wine scene has grown more inclusive for those of us who don鈥檛 know much about the stuff beyond the fact that we like drinking it. New Logan Square watering hole Outside Voices takes that mission a step further, blurring the lines between the neighborhood tavern and a proper wine bar. This delightful storefront is sandwiched between two other beloved spots from the same owners鈥攇in-focused cocktail den Scofflaw and sporty pub the Moonlighter. Like its siblings, vino-centric Outside Voices leans pricier than your everyday pub, but the vibe is unmistakably no fuss. Led by beverage manager Davis Sayer, the bar mostly eschews the pretense that often comes with wine鈥攁nd not just because the staff has an affinity for flannel button-downs and playing Heart on vinyl. You feel it within 15 seconds of sidling up to the bar to peruse the menu. Rather than putting the onus on the drinker to decide on a style (Whites from France? Cabernets?), the daily-changing menu of whites, reds, ros茅s and orange, and bubbles focuses on individual flavors and textures in each of the 20-odd available wines. Bartenders take a similar tact

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

There鈥檚 a lovely moment in Won鈥檛 You Be My Neighbor?鈥攖he HBO documentary on the late Fred Rogers鈥攖hat discusses the importance of creating quiet spaces. A peeler slowly works its way around an apple; Rogers sets an egg timer to show the actual length of a minute. It鈥檚 meant to reject the loud, crude mass media aimed at children in television鈥檚 early days, but it also echoes the overstimulation with which many of us live, work and eat now, thanks to a certain device we keep glued to our sides. But from the moment I entered Kumiko鈥檚 plant-filled foyer to a welcome cup of cinnamon chai tea, a sense of meditative calm washed over me. This Japanese-inspired cocktail bar and restaurant from Julia Momose (GreenRiver), Cara and Noah Sandoval and chef de cuisine Mariya Russell (all Oriole), is one of measured pace and care. Kumiko鈥檚 eight-seat omakase bar lends a peek into the humming kitchen through an intricately carved wood shade that acts as a focal point of the restaurant. My date and I had booked our barstools about a month in advance for the $130 omakase experience, in which Momose and her skilled team pair a series of fixed Japanese bites with sakes and bespoke cocktails. 鈥淒o you tend to go for bright and citrusy? Bitter or savory?鈥 asked our meticulously suited bartender once we were settled. His easy warmth goaded me into oversharing beyond my cocktail preferences in the same way I sometimes psychologically unload on hospitable baristas. A progression of nigiri came first. C

Celeste
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • River North
  • price 3 of 4

Bar review by Amy Cavanaugh Before a new bar or restaurant opens, chefs and publicists usually inundate social media with updates, obsessively document recipe testing via Instagram, and provide 鈥渇irst looks鈥 to every media outlet in town. By the time the place actually opens, you鈥檝e already seen everything. 聽 Not so with Celeste, which I listed as 鈥渘ew bar in Swirl Wine Bar space鈥 under 鈥渄ate unknown鈥 on the document I use to track new openings, right up until February 3, the day it actually opened.聽 The lack of buzz means two things: One, there鈥檚 plenty to discover on a menu that hasn鈥檛 obsessively been covered. And two, you can get a seat. Celeste has become a popular industry spot鈥攐n my first visit, Sepia head bartender Griffin Elliot was sitting at a booth in the Deco Room upstairs; on another, I sat next to Steve Dolinsky at the first floor bar. Celeste is owned by brothers Nader, Fadi and Rafid Hindo; Freddie Sarkis (Sable Kitchen & Bar) and Sterling Field (Carriage House) handle bar duties. Former Sepia bartender Josh Pearson also helped with the opening before becoming the brand ambassador for Absolut Elyx. There are two bars: A first floor bar that鈥檚 long and sleek, with a more approachable cocktail menu and a DJ, and a quieter upstairs bar, which glows with light from big chandeliers and where Field makes cocktails that are more complex鈥攁nd more expensive. Food, from Aaron Lirette (last at Acadia, he鈥檚 been working on Celeste for the last year and a half), is availa

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The Loyalist
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • West Loop
  • price 3 of 4

There are two options when you enter John and Karen Urie Shields鈥 Smyth + The Loyalist. You can head upstairs to Smyth for a modern fine dining experience, complete with a prix fixe menu, or you can walk downstairs to the Loyalist, a sultry bar with upscale bites (including an amazing cheeseburger) and killer cocktails. Positioned in the West Loop, the spot is perfect for a before- or after-dinner drink, but you could also spend a whole night there. The Loyalist鈥檚 cocktail menu is the centerpiece, springing from the mind of former MFK bartender Roger Landes. The menu is well rounded, with a mix of light and spirit-forward drinks, including twists on classics and more original ideas. All the cocktails have at least one special component, such as the use of Chinato in place of Campari in the Innocents Abroad with Gentiane, creating a citrusy and bitter negroni. Likewise, the Nothing Noble combines bourbon with demerara sugar, a bit of Amargo Valet and mint for an herbal twist on a classic old-fashioned. It isn鈥檛 just the variations and balance that makes these cocktails interesting鈥攖here鈥檚 also something to be said for the presentation. Drinks come in beautiful etched glass goblets and fancy thin-walled lowballs that exude quality and attention to detail. The food works well for the space too, with primarily small plates made for sharing鈥攁 sharp contrast to the fine dining dishes served upstairs. The most notable thing on the menu is the cheeseburger, served on a sesame seed bu

Queen Mary Tavern
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Ukrainian Village
  • price 2 of 4

Heisler Hospitality is on a roll this year鈥攖he group鈥檚 British-Indian beer bar, Pub Royale, opened in May, then in November, they opened Queen Mary Tavern, a bar that focuses on maritime drinking. Either theme could easily have been gimmicky, but Heisler knows how to put the right people in charge. At Queen Mary Tavern, Dan Smith and Mony Bunni have assembled a list of cocktails that鈥檚 true to the theme鈥攔um, gin and Scotch abound鈥攚hile using unexpected ingredients and offering sophisticated flavor profiles.聽 Take the Stone鈥檚 Throw, which uses tahini to add sesame notes to the smoky base of Scotch and cream, while a shower of nutmeg over the top ties it all together. Albatross combines gin and madeira with Angostura and coriander聽for an herbal sip, and St. Erasmus聽is a tall, icy swizzle with funky rum and some heat from chili. My favorite is Mood Indigo, which I can imagine an epicurean pirate assembling from the spoils of his travels; with port, St. Lucian rum, Batavia Arrack, cardamom and jaggery (cane sugar from Asia and Africa), it鈥檚 richly flavored, and a whole egg adds a smooth mouthfeel. The bar had been empty for four decades before Heisler took it over. The space previously held a neighborhood tavern run by Mary Kafka, the namesake for Queen Mary, who still lives upstairs. Many of the original pieces, like the bar, remain in place, which makes Queen Mary feel like it鈥檚 been there forever. Luckily the drink list doesn鈥檛鈥攊t鈥檚 a fresh look at three familiar spirits and a

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