Some of Chicago’s finest bars live underground. Others sit high in the sky or hide in dark alleys. Here are seven of our favorite out-of-the-way places to imbibe, whether we’re looking for a post-work drink or a swanky date night.
RM Champagne Salon Glittering lights in a secluded alley lead the way to RM Champagne Salon in the West Loop. Unwind on a spacious cobblestone patio with strings of lights hovering above during the warmer months and next to an indoor wood-burning fireplace when the temps fall. As its name suggests, RM Champagne Salon is known for its sparkling Champagnes, but it also serves French bistro fare like Croque Madame and steak frites. rmchampagnesalon.com
Photo courtesy of RM Champagne Salon
GreenRiver One of the city's largest terraces. Sweeping skyline views. Octopus for an appetizer. You'd expect to find a place like this in a luxe downtown hotel, not on the 18th floor of a medical facility in Streeterville. Head bartender, Julia Momose, gladly guides customers through the upscale American restaurant and bar's lineup of 32 cocktails, many of which use unusual ingredients, such as black trumpet mushroom, beets, carrots, and spices like garam masala. greenriverchi.com
Photo courtesy of Anthony Tahlier
The Office You don’t just roll into this off-the-radar bar at The Aviary restaurant in the West Loop neighborhood. First, you make a dinner reservation. Once seated, casually ask your waiter if there’s room at The Office. After the waiter does some checking and gives you a few discreet head nods, follow the manager downstairs. With a turn of a key, you’re in. The booze menu is impressive—some of the bourbon has been aged for decades—but it’s more fun to trust the mixologist to make you a signature cocktail. theaviary.com
The Heavy Feather To access Heavy Feather, squeeze past the revelers at rowdy Slippery Slope bar until you reach a set of stairs. Walk up to be transported to this true-to-form fern bar (a common term for yuppie 70s bars adorned with Tiffany lamps and greenery). "We never wanted to create a parody or caricature of the fern bar,” says beverage director Doug Phillips. "Our demographic runs the gamut from younger folks to the older generation who remembers ordering some iteration of these drinks." Try the Tony Negroni, made with Beefeater gin and Campari. slipperyslopechicago.com
Photo courtesy of Dan Segar
The Violet Hour You wouldn't be the first person to miss the entrance of The Violet Hour; it’s usually camouflaged with street art. Find the handle designating its entrance, knock and someone will open the door within a minute or two. The velvet-curtained lounge, which is known for its James Beard Award-winning bar program, serves a rotating selection of artisanal cocktails in the heart of Wicker Park. Impress your date by sharing this little known fact: Other than the alcohol, all of the cocktail ingredients are made in-house, including syrups. theviolethour.com
(Top) Photo courtesy of David Soukup. (Bottom) Photo courtesy of Joni Kat Anderson
Punch House After dining at Dusek’s Board and Beer in Pilsen, head downstairs to this midcentury modern, wood-paneled bar reminiscent of your dad’s downstairs den. Appropriately outfitted with trophy fish, retro pendant lamps and furniture out of a 1960s rumpus room, Punch House divides its menu into classic recipes and contemporary punch. Guests sip libations out of mismatched glassware sourced from antiques stores across the country. Fun fact: You can rotate the bookcase in the corner to reveal a secluded beer cellar. punchhousechicago.com
Photo courtesy of Punch House
Billy Goat Tavern Walk into Billy Goat Tavern and the cook, clutching a frying pan, will yell, “Cheezborger! Cheezborger! You want doublecheez? Who's next? WHO'S NEXT?" You can order yourself a cheeseburger, or you can nod to him and head stage right where stools line the bar, complete with a vintage cash register. Don’t be surprised if you strike up a conversation with a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter. It’s a favorite watering hole for Chicago Tribune reporters from the Tribune Tower above. billygoattavern.com
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