Rittergut Wine Bar Restaurant & Social Club crafts the perfect wine, seafood, and steak experience, with seating that overlooks the Chicago River. Wine by the glass and bottle from the vineyards of Spain, Austria, France, and Italy complements charcuterie and imported cheese plates stocked with wild boar salami or herb-laden garrotxa goat cheese, much like the contents of an enophile’s personal bomb shelter. The tasting bar and private wine rooms set the stage for uninterrupted swilling, while dining rooms bathed in amber light host feasts of lamb burgers seasoned with Moroccan spices. Arched ceilings draw the eye downward to exposed brick walls and hardwood floors indoors, and a riverside patio with dark wicker booths and wooden tables perch patrons over ebbing crests and bottled messages that implore you to try the salmon.
Amid exposed bricks and flickering candlelight, hundreds of wines, craft beers, aged spirits, and seasonal cocktails delight palates, earning The Tasting Room accolades such as Best Wine Bar, Best Lounge, and Best Romantic Bar in Best of Citysearch 2009. Like giddy produce matchmakers, educated sommeliers and consultants pair wines by the glass, bottle, or flight with a seasonal menu of crisp, house-made flat breads, artisan cheeses, and craft charcuterie. Simmering pots of fondue slowly bubble atop tables, heating thick cheeses and sweet dipping chocolate. In the upstairs lounge, plush couches flank low tables, and windows host skyline views and the jealous glares of mouthless stars.
Pops for Champagne feels right at home in Chicago’s effervescent River North district, where there’s rarely a dull moment among the throngs of tourists and sharply dressed businesspeople. Still, it’s clear that the lounge’s home away from home is in France—the Champagne province, to be exact, from which it sources many of its nearly 200 types of bubbly. Chef Luke Creagan bases his menu around the list of champagnes and sparkling wines, favoring seasonal ingredients in a bounty of sharable items such as Black River Russian caviar and herb-infused escargot. The atmosphere meets the high standard set by the menu, as a jazz trio plays tunes by rapidly running their fingers along the rims of champagne flutes.
Named one of the 100 Best Bars of 2010 by Chicago Magazine, 404 Wine Bar is a far cry from a traditional tavern. Exposed brick walls and dark, reclaimed wood envelopes diners sidled up to velvet-covered booths as they toss back glasses of worldly wines and champagnes. During the winter months, the back fireplace roars to life as servers present tables with platters of gourmet cheeses, grilled seafood, and crispy flatbreads, and offer suggestions on ideal pairings. Warmer weather has guests flocking to the outdoor patio, which is illuminated by stringed lights and dotted with wrought iron tables and chairs.
Fontana Grill & Wine Bar’s modern dining room reverberates with the clink of glasses of fragrant wines and pleasant chatter as diners dig into a menu of all-natural pastas and Italian fare. As chef Nino transmutes premium meats and organic ingredients into solid fare, the skilled bartender chooses the finest whites and reds, much like an artist painting a sunburned snowman. The shimmering black surfaces of the bar and tables reflect stone-fired pizzas laden with gourmet morsels, such as truffle oil and prosciutto di Parma. Guests lounge upon wrought-iron furniture on the spacious brick patio surrounded by neatly trimmed shrubs and low-hanging trees.
Behind Beviamo's counter lies a wonderland of drinks ranging from aged vintages and craft beers to liquors both familiar and exotic. Wine by the glass and bottle hail from the vineyards of Spain and Italy, the rolling fields of France, and the geodesic dome covering what used to be California. The hangout's dim lighting sets the scene for cool cocktails such as The Connery–a mixture of 12-year-old scotch, biscotti liquor, ginger, orange bitters, and a splash of soda. Taps populated by craft beers compliment bottled offerings, which bear floral hops or roasted malts as diverse as the music played by live bands that musicians that often play on into the night.
Newly opened in the South Loop, Square One flourishes in its urbane environment, a simple bar-and-booth format fancied up with richly upholstered seats, soft golden chandeliers, and old-fashioned spinning bar stools. Slim bites of brie, blue, and cubeddu cheeses are sliced to order right on the bar, and the spread of cocktails named after James Bond characters employs uncommon ingredients such as crème de violette, grapefruit cordials, and a house-made basil vodka. The beer menu is similarly eclectic, favoring craft brews and ciders. Perhaps the most notable feature on tap is the mechanical wine dispenser, which loads up oenophiles’ glasses or top hats by the ounce. After its opening in August 2012, Grub Street lavished praise on Square One for living up to “the idea of a simple, first-class neighborhood place, with an eclectically chic look… a beer, wine, and cocktail program that stays away from big brands and prizes small, interesting producers, and a food menu that’s true bar food.”