Links Taproom is a beer and sausage bar in Wicker Park.
Polish & Pour is a nail salon-cocktail bar in Old Town.
Compass Bar is now open in Lincoln Park.
FIRST IMPRESSION This craft beer and sausage–themed bar was crowded when we stopped by on a recent Friday night, but not as packed as you’d expect for a shiny new sports bar in Wicker Park’s borderline-claustrophobic six corners. Taking over the former Bin 36 space, this spot betrays not a hint of the original wine bar among the sleek wooden tables and huge TVs lining the room. A pair of gigantic screens display the current tap list and statistics on the amount of beer left in each keg, lest you miss out on the last drops of a rare pour.
DRINKS Sit at the bar and scan the beer list on an iPad provided by the bar staff. With a local-heavy selection, there’s a draft for everyone—and five wines on tap if beer isn’t your thing. Behind the bar is a smaller selection of liquor, but this obviously isn’t the place to order a cocktail.
FOOD The menu is composed of classic bar snacks and a selection of housemade sausages. We tried the cheese curds, deep fried in a light tempura batter and unsurprisingly greasy. Links gives you an option of sauces; we chose the pesto aioli, dense with basil. Dipping fried cheese into mayonnaise isn’t terribly appealing, and we found ourselves wishing we had an option for marinara. The steak and ale sausage with fried shallots was pleasantly juicy, and the accompanying stout mustard is worth seeking out.
SERVICE The bar staff is attentive and well-versed on the beer list. For food service, order from a window at the back of the room. If you’re lucky enough to find a seat at the bar, cozy up and enjoy the added bonus of being waited on.
THE TAB $25 for two drinks, cheese curds and a steak and ale sausage
FIRST IMPRESSION This newly rehabbed salon has recently acquired a liquor license and now bills itself as the perfect place to go for a night out with a group of girlfriends. An empty bar at the entrance features rows of sweet and diet-focused booze next to a sparse selection of wines. It’s a decent option for a bachelorette, birthday party or baby/bridal shower, if you want a place to relax and jabber with a glass of wine among friends. For entertainment, be warned—the televisions only loop old episodes of Sex and the City and we couldn’t find a single magazine.
DRINKS Our gin and grapefruit soda fizz was expectedly sweet, but surprisingly strong. The Moscow Mule, composed of ginger soda, lime and vodka, was watery and bland. The bar features nightly specials—make an appointment on Wednesday nights for $20 bottles of wine or Thursday for $20 bottles of bubbles.
SERVICE We had to wait about 10 minutes for our scheduled appointments after finally getting the attention from the sparse staff. After that, we were quickly offered drinks and ushered to our respective seats. Nail service is, unsurprisingly, the salon’s biggest strength—our manicures were pleasant and relaxing, and our polish lasted almost a week before chipping.
THE TAB $17 for two drinks
FIRST IMPRESSION The latest concept from the team behind the Boiler Room and Parts & Labor is a hidden space off the main stretch of Milwaukee in Logan Square. Touted as a speakeasy, the bar doesn't evoke anything "speakeasy" once you get past the unmarked entrance (a light above the door glows red when the bar is open). Have a seat at the no-frills bar, an assortment of booths or sway among a handful of high-top tables. In the main room, the interior is pitch-black with exposed brick walls and a flicker of light from scattered candles. In the back, a larger area boasts a dance floor and DJ, a projector screening movies and a questionably out-of-service elevator transformed into a lounge space. Like Boiler Room, East Room is cash-only, so if you use the ATM, save your receipt—you can trade it at the bar for a free shot.
DRINKS The menu is simple, with one side boasting a list of 30 craft beers and the other an impressive selection of whiskey. There’s no cocktail list (classics are available by request and served in simple coupe glasses), but this is ultimately a whiskey and beer spot. But beware: There are no prices listed for the whiskey, so make sure to check with the bartender before you end up with a hefty bill.
SERVICE Our courteous bartender made sure our water and drink glasses were full when we arrived early on a Thursday evening. A couple of hours later, though, the bar was filled and newcomers had to elbow their way through the crowd to grab the waitstaff's attention.
THE TAB $12 for two drinks
FIRST IMPRESSION The sign outside this revamped sports bar at the end of Diversey promises craft beer and wood-fired pizza, and that’s what you’ll get. Seated on sleek leather chairs, the crowd of young professionals watched the game on a handful of bright flatscreens. In the back, you can see the wood-fired oven, used to cook pizzas and other menu items, including a chocolate-chip cookie topped with ice cream.
DRINKS The beer selection here is epic, with more than 200 drafts and bottles to choose from. The draft list is appreciatively unique, including a few things you won’t easily find elsewhere in the city. A small list of classic cocktails are available, but you’re better off enjoying one of the gems on the beer list.
FOOD The space focuses on pizza, cooked in a wood-fired oven. We tried the margherita, but were taken with the prosciutto, topped with confit garlic and a fresh heap of arugula dressed in truffle oil. Surprisingly, it’s the side dishes that really shine. The stuffed mushrooms with prosciutto and mozzarella are addictive, and we couldn’t stop eating the Cajun fried potatoes with creole remoulade and bacon and scattered with scallions.
SERVICE The food arrived quickly, as well as the drinks. If you need help navigating the beer menu, just ask the staff and they’ll walk you through the extensive menu.
THE TAB $53 for two appetizers, two pizzas and two beers