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Best place for craft cocktails

Audience Choice, Food & Drink, Near North, Wicker Park No Comments »

Sable Kitchen & Bar
It’s tempting to go with Aviary, the liquid outpost from the Alinea team, but with the changing of guard to Charles Joly from Craig Schoettler, it’s still too early to tell what change will bring. At Sable though, head bartender Mike Ryan (Violet Hour, Otom vet) has been steadfast. He trained as a chef and handcrafts bitters, tinctures and infusions with balance and nuance. While he can improvise anything behind the stick, the long and well-curated cocktail list ensures you’ll never be stumped or left wanting when you’re thirsty.

505 North State, (312)755-9704, sablechicago.com

Audience choice: Violet Hour, 1520 North Damen, (773)252-1500, theviolethour.com

Best of Chicago 2012

Best new bar (opened in the last year or so)

Audience Choice, Culture & Nightlife, Logan Square, Wicker Park 1 Comment »

The Whistler

The easy-to-miss, brand-spankin’ new Logan Square exercise in swankery, the modestly sized Whistler features a commendably extensive cocktail and beer list, all reasonably priced (not all craft cocktails have to be $11) and, most importantly, strong. And, the owners understand one of the essential rules of bars constructed for hipsters—always have a two-dollar beer. So, amongst the craft brews and lovely gins, we find the classic $2 can of PBR. A stage at one end of the bar occasionally hosts live music, and when it goes dark, a DJ takes the reins. When we were there, we were privy to a mixture of Nirvana, Yo La Tengo and others, but we heard the bar’s got a kick-ass metal night and we plan to return for sure.

2421 N. Milwaukee
(773)227-3530

Audience choice:
Violet Hour
1520 N. Damen
(773)252-1500

Best of Chicago 2008

Best bar to have a conversation in

Audience Choice, Culture & Nightlife, Roscoe Village No Comments »

Hungry Brain

Roscoe Village’s quaint pub remains one of the best bars in the city not only because of its warm, charming décor (the stage, dotted with couches and a community table is a nice touch) but also because no one is ever there. You’ll rarely, if ever, have a difficult time finding a seat for you and your friend(s) at a table or at the bar itself, and the music, while always agreeable, is kept at a safe distance from your conversation. So talk politics, talk art, talk relationships and, best yet, talk at a normal volume, and do so while taking down a Guinness, because for some reason it tastes especially good here.

2319 W. Belmont
(773)709-1401

Audience choice
(Tie) Danny’s, 1951 W. Dickens, (773)489-6457; Violet Hour,
1520 N. Damen. (773)252-1500.

Best of Chicago 2008

Best martini selection

Audience Choice, Culture & Nightlife, Lakeview, Wicker Park No Comments »

Violet Hour

For the record, just because it’s in a martini glass, it’s not a martini. We reserve that title for gin touched off with a hint of vermouth and a big fat olive. But since popular opinion seems to have overruled us in this regard and it seems any liquor combo serves as a martini, you might as well get your pink- or green-hued libation at the one place that knows balance, freshly squeezed juices and topnotch liquor.

1520 N. Damen
(773)252-1500

Audience choice:
Kit Kat Club
3700 N. Halsted
(773)525-1111

Best of Chicago 2008

Best place for craft cocktails

Audience Choice, Food & Drink No Comments »

Violet Hour
Featuring eight different kinds of ice, culinary-school-trained bartenders, freshly squeezed juices and seven kinds of homemade aromatic bitters from partners and chief intoxologists Toby Maloney and Jason Cott, there is nothing else like this in the city. Bartenders spank naughty mint leaves above citrusy Southside cocktails to release the fragrant aromatic oils, while they build muscle mass cranking steel shakers to froth up the Iron Cross, Violet Hour’s take on the Pisco sour.
1520 North Damen (773)252-1500

Audience choice: Violet Hour
1520 North Damen (773)252-1500

Best of Chicago 2007