Presidio is a solid spot for dinner and drinks, though the lounge vibe and loud music (even on weeknights) make it best for a group seeking a lively evening out
Bucktown lost a solid spot for drinks and dinner when Bluebird closed in 2014, then gained one right back when Presidio opened in March. But Presidio isn’t as low-key as Bluebird—it’s flashier, and aims a little higher. Owner Patrick Cullen gave his first restaurant/lounge a San Francisco theme (the name refers to a city park), which translates to some cocktails with a Bay Area provenance, fairly simple food and a lot of Fernet, the Italian amaro that’s celebrated out West.
The drink list is the first venture from the Dogma Group, bartenders Alex Renshaw (formerly Drumbar), Brian Sturgulewski (Fulton Market Kitchen) and Clint Rogers (Dawson), who have joined forces but are mum on future projects. The talented trio contributed a list of gems, like Flash in the Pan, a summery gin cooler with grapefruit and cherry, sprinkled with black pepper and garnished with mint; and the Jolly Roger, a creamy rum and Batavia Arrack drink that evokes Thanksgiving, thanks to curried sweet potato.
Shaun Connolly (Chicago Cut, Nightwood) is heading up the kitchen and turning out a well-executed mix of small and large plates like creamy burrata with plump pickled golden raisins and honeycomb. While a ricotta cavatelli with sausage and peppers strayed toward gummy, the rabbit salad, with spicy rabbit confit, greens and pluots, was both refreshing and hearty.
The too-loud music gave the space a weekend vibe on a Tuesday, so a low-key spot this is not, but Presidio has quickly become Bucktown’s most serious cocktail program.
Atmosphere: The front space is a sleek bar/lounge with heavy cowhide bar stools and sofas, while the back is a dining room. But on a Tuesday, the too-loud music made it feel like a late-night party, not early evening.
What to eat: Rabbit salad ($16), burrata ($13)
What to drink: Fernet-lovers can work through the list of nine Fernets, including local versions from Letherbee and FEW. New to the spirit? Add a ginger ale back to help ease the bitterness. Select anything that catches your eye on the well-crafted drink menu and you won’t likely go wrong.
Where to sit: That depends—are you eating? Then try to get a table in dark, cozy dining room or, failing that, at the bar. The food is too complicated for eating while sitting on couches or benches with shin-high tables—those are (and should only be) for people having cocktails.
1749 N Damen Ave
|Cross street:||at Willow St|
|Opening hours:||Sun 5:30-10pm, Tue-Thu 5:30pm-midnight, Fri 5:30pm-2am, Sat 6pm-2am|
|Transport:||El stop: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 72.|
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