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The best wine bars in Chicago

Whether you enjoy a crisp sauvignon blanc or a bold syrah, the best wine bars in Chicago offer plenty of options

Photograph: Martha Williams
Tieguanyin Medium Roast Oolong tea paired with Toro Albala Oloroso at Vera wine bar.

Handcrafted cocktails and local beers are big in Chicago bars, but that doesn't mean we don't love wine. These days, sommeliers aren't afraid to think outside the box (or bottle, as it were), from wine cocktails to wine on tap. Even the bar food goes beyond the typical cheese plates—some have menus that rival Chicago's best Italian restaurants. Get ready to sip and swirl at some of the best wine bars in town.

RECOMMENDED: Our guide to the best bars in Chicago

Best wine bars in Chicago

1

Vera

Mark and Liz Mendez, both formerly of Carnivale, escape the trappings of their former employer with this quiet spot. It's a wine bar, so drink up—Liz has assembled an excellent sherry program, and all the servers can direct you toward a glass. Mark handles food, and we're fans of the hearty paella, perfectly seasoned meatballs and the generous cheese and charcuterie plate. A daytime menu features coffee and tea paired with sherry, plus snacks like doughnuts, English muffins and a tortilla espanola.

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West Loop
2

Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar

The novella-length menu at this low-key alcove contains loving and helpful descriptions of an impressive selection of wines and beers. And thanks to the array of small plates served until 1am, this is the kind of warm, simple neighborhood place you’ll never want—or need—to leave.

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Humboldt Park
3

Ampersand Wine Bar

With the quiet sound of electro-swing in the background, sipping wine at Darren McGraw's Ampersand Wine Bar is easy. Most glasses hover around $10–$12, and the staff is happy to help you pick out the right glass—you can even ask for a sip ahead of time if you're not sure. There's food, too, including a prettily plated meat and cheese board in two sizes. The large is perfect for two, so grab a friend and belly up to the bar.

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Lincoln Square
4

Bar Pastoral

The restaurant attached to Lakeview's Pastoral is a dim, cozy spot for drinking an interesting selection of wines by the glass, along with the food you want while sipping wines—cheese plates, charcuterie and pâté. Half glasses of wine are just $5, so you can sample a variety. If you like what you taste, well, Pastoral's shop is just next door.

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Lake View
5

DiSotto Enoteca

Old World wine list and Mediterranean small plates: Scott Harris has nailed the formula at Purple Pig and Davanti Enoteca, so why mess with a good thing? Admittedly, the scales at DiSotto (in the cellar-like basement of Francesca’s on Chestnut) tip toward drinking—the food is limited to antipasti, bruschetta, cheeses and salumi. But when you’re spreading thick ricotta and fragments of honeycomb on toasted bread or sampling warm, marinated olives or indulging in the toast with a truffled egg yolk at its center, the appeal of this wine bar can’t help but feel unending.

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Streeterville
6

RM Champagne Salon

You enter through an unmarked alleyway, glowing strings of lights leading you to a cobblestone courtyard and ornate parlor that resembles a Parisian hideaway. You forget where you are. You order glasses of champagne you’ve never heard of, you gently unhinge oysters from their shells, and when dessert comes, your selection is plucked from a fanciful cart, replete with bite-size caramels and marshmallows. Heaven? Who needs it when there’s RM?

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West Loop
7

Bar Marta

This Humboldt Park hideaway from a group of Hogsalt veterans has a small by-the-glass menu but a well-curated bottle list. The menu includes different sized plates big enough to share. We're fans of the mashed potatoes, with creamy garlic and crisp fried rosemary and the generous chicken liver toast, topped with crispy chicken skin. The bar fills up quickly, but the glasses of wine and tasty snacks make it great for sitting.

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Humboldt Park
8

Pops for Champagne

This sleek, shiny bar in Tree Studios boasts—as the name suggests—the city’s best selection of bubbles. Most of it doesn’t come cheap (it never does), but you’re not just paying for the booze—you’re paying for some of the most educated bartenders in town. Take advantage of their knowledge and ask lots of questions. And when you’ve had enough education (and wine), head downstairs to Pops’ cocktail bar, WaterShed.

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River North
9

Webster’s Wine Bar

Webster’s Wine Bar relocated from Lincoln Park to Logan Square (where it took over sister spot the Telegraph), but little has changed. It's still a solid place to sample an array of wines, since tasting pours are about $3–$6, and the knowledgeable staff and engaging menu descriptions will direct you to the right wine. The cheeses and charcuterie plates are just what you need to soak it all up.

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Logan Square
10

Lush Wine & Spirits

This wine store/bar has a few outposts, and we enjoy hanging out at the one in West Town. Tuesdays are an especially good night to go, with a $12.50 Cru Beaujolais special that has three glasses of crus with a chicken rillette. Feeling a bit more traditional? The bar also has a hefty glass list and snacks (we like the crispy chickpeas), and since you're there already, you should take a bottle of wine or beer home, too. For convenience.

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River West/West Town

America's best wine bars

Comments

1 comments
dan n
dan n

I don't know how you can leave off Bin 36.  This was one of the first wine bars in the city and certainly one of the best.