You might expect a wine bar to have hundreds of bottles and a hefty list. That’s not so at Darren McGraw’s (Charlie Trotter’s) Ampersand, where the global wine offerings are refreshingly well edited. Most cost less than $10 a glass, so try a couple while relaxing over small plates, like a Lyonnaise salad with a quivering poached egg and orange segments or an adorable plate of tiny cookies and candies.
The Southport Corridor brewery from the team behind DryHop Brewers focuses on hop-forward and farmhouse beers, including the year-round Wizard Fight, a creamy nitro lactose IPA, and Blame John Cusack, a Belgian Dubbel with caramel notes that's ideal for cold weather drinking. The comfortable brewpub has a mix of bar seating and booths, so there's plenty of space for a group to get together and work through the beer offerings. Since you'll need to refuel, try the burger, two thin patties tucked around cheddar with mustard-herb mayo and piquant pickles.
Avondale’s old-school taproom and liquor store got a refresh this year when the Rocking Horse and Dante’s Pizzeria team took it over. While beer is the comfortable tavern’s focus, with 24 regularly rotating taps and beer flights along with dozens of cans and bottles, you’ll also find a solid cocktail list. Cha Cha Damore, made with rum, Amaro di Angostura, Domaine de Canton and bitters, is a cool-weather sipper, while the Rosado is a bright concoction with mescal and hibiscus-infused tequila. If you’re hungry, snack on Mama’s Nuts or order from Dante’s.
As soon as the team behind New York’s Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog announced plans to open a Chicago bar with the immensely talented Julia Momose (the Aviary and the office) as head bartender, it was clear GreenRiver would become one of the most important bars of the year. And it is. Drinks named for historical Chicago figures incorporate unexpected ingredients; the Peace Frog is a savory rhum agricole cocktail with black trumpet mushrooms, and Diamond Jim bears smoky mescal and herbal old Bay tincture. Chef Aaron Lirette’s menu is excellent as well: Try the fried chicken oysters, basically elegant chicken nuggets with spicy pickled Fresno chili sauce.