Michael Dorf stood with his brother Josh, smiling over the barrel filled with wine from grapes they'd just crushed, fermented, and pressed. He claims that despite tastings and classes, he'd never begun to understand wine until this moment. As his understanding grew, he laid the foundations for City Winery: a full winery facility, restaurant, and concert venue inside urban Chicago. He now watches over more than 400 international wines and 20 house wines. Inside the winery, these wines—made from nine US and international varietals—age inside stainless steel tanks and American and French oak barrels. Here, staffers lead winemaking classes, letting visitors join the crushing and fermenting process, and showing them how make private barrels and fill custom juice boxes or bottles pasted with labels of their own design.
These monolithic tanks and barrels can be seen through floor-to-ceiling windows from most of the restaurant's rooms, where servers ferry Executive Chef Andres Barrera's dishes, each a blend of Italian, French, Spanish, and Middle-Eastern flavors. The culinary team crafts small and large plates of artisanal cheeses, seafood, and flatbreads—which they make using the winery's own wine lees as yeast. In the restaurant and Barrel Room tasting bar, staffers pour housemade wines piped fresh from the cellar through 14 taps, while visitors bask in the glow from hard wood and floor to ceiling windows. Patrons dine on a ground floor lit by soft blue lights and hanging lamps fashioned from old wine bottles, as well as a mezzanine level looking out on the city skyline. Private dining rooms gather guests around long communal tables, stretched between exposed brick walls. In the show venue, comedians, live musicians, and slapstick-prone stage crew members entertain audiences under the glow of tabletop candles.
There's more than one way to appreciate a bouquet. That's the idea behind Avenue Flower Shop & Wine Bar, a successful floral shop that has recently opened a tasting room where visitors can sample wines from Europe, South America, South Africa, and the Columbia Valley. Perhaps unsurprisingly, flowers decorate almost every corner of the space, from the hardwood bar that rests atop small neoclassical columns to the tables that stand draped in black tablecloths. On some nights, wine flavors and floral aromas mingle with live harmonies from local blues and jazz ensembles, which creates a casual atmosphere and teaches lilies music theory. Avenue Flower Shop & Wine Bar also recently branched out into gaming with the addition of five video poker machines.
Before opening Mid Oak Distillery, Matt Altman studied ancient Russian methods of vodka production. These studies inspired Altman to christen his vodka "CD" after "Catherine's Dynasty," translated from the original Russian Catalina Dynastii, which refers to the reign of Catherine the Great. At Mid Oak Distillery, Altman reprises the royal recipe with local ingredients: Illinois grains, Glenview bottles, and tags from Oak Forest. Distillers cork the bottles by hand, seal them with heat, and adorn their necks with tags that denote alcohol content and recent immunizations. Altman even chose to have local contractors build the tasting room. Within its recently expanded 3,000-square-foot space, Mid Oak Distillery serves up vodka drinks made from a lineup of traditional, seasonal, and flavored varieties of meticulously crafted CD Vodka.
For every color in Roscoe’s Tavern & Café rainbow-striped logo, there’s a reason to visit the multi-faceted bar. During warmer months, a quaint sidewalk café sits outside the entryway. The interior is spacious enough to accommodate pool tables, a dance floor, live-band karaoke, and a regular schedule of drag shows and other events. Of course, the real draw is the bar’s well program—more accurately called a “drink well” program, as it promises higher-quality well vodka, whiskey, rum, gin, and tequila. It’s helped Roscoe’s earn a spot on Out magazine’s list of “The 50 Greatest Gay Bars in the World.”
With 25-year-old roots in Boystown—the wooden Indian in the doorway is a neighborhood mainstay—the staff at Roscoe’s has a vested interest in helping the surrounding community to thrive. They work with local businesses and charities, including Dance for Life Chicago, a performance-based non-profit that boosts awareness and raises funds for HIV and AIDS care, education, and prevention. The staff also helps patrons register to vote and join neighborhood associations so that they can make their voices heard without having to train a flock of really loud parrots.
Groupon Celebrates Pride Month
Over the last 50 years, the gay-rights movement in America has overcome tremendous obstacles to become a powerful voice for inclusion and diversity. Even as it has grown, the movement—like Groupon—is local at heart, and we applaud the commitment to real change that improves everyday lives.
At Groupon, we are happy to add our voices to those celebrating PRIDE, their achievements as a social movement and a continued march to equality for the LGBT community. Plus, we love a chance to dig that rainbow wig out of storage.
This month—and throughout the year—we salute our merchants and customers who support PRIDE and all efforts that promote dignity, respect, and equal opportunity. We're highlighting these merchants' deals with a special badge to show Groupon's pride in working with people who share our values.
Combining his French culinary education with his Japanese heritage, chef Takashi crafts Michelin-starred French dishes with an East Asian twist. Finish off the weekend with Sunday’s multi-course kaiseki dinner, or pair a glass of sake with a plate from the chef’s tasting menu.
Robert Birnecker and Sonat Birnecker-Hart are devoted to the art of distilling. For Robert, it’s a family tradition: he still treasures memories of his grandparents’ award-winning Austrian distillery, where he often helped out as a child. A graduate of Oxford and the University of London, Robert's wife, Sonat, gave up a tenured academic position to pursue the couple’s dream of making their own spirits from scratch. Today, Robert and Sonat’s award-winning Koval Distillery is the first to open in Chicago’s city limits since Prohibition. There, they blend classic, mainstream techniques with contemporary, indie methods, ensuring quality by using only certified organic and kosher ingredients grown in the Midwest.
Using a Kothe potstill custom-made and hand-built in Germany, the husband-and-wife team produces small-batch spirits, including five original white whiskeys made from rye, oat, wheat, millet, and spelt mash. They also distill Lion’s Pride aged whiskeys, plus a selection of liqueurs and brandies, such as bierbrand made with Dynamo Copper Lager from neighbor Metropolitan Brewing. These spirits have won multiple local and national awards, from Whisky Magazine’s 100 Greatest Distilleries to Visit to the Chicago Reader’s Best Local Distillery.