Intimo's menu whisks diners to the Italian countryside with a variety of authentic house-made entrees. More than 300 bottles of distinct wines hibernate in the 58-degree walk-in wine cellar. Director Frank Pecora fosters a relaxed, sophisticated atmosphere with dim lighting and sleek, dark wooden accents. Candles flicker atop tables draped in white linens, casting shadow-puppet adaptations of Godzilla vs. Fork and Knife on the exposed-brick walls.
Dance music pulsates through Red Velvet Lounge as party-goers indulge in late-night eats and specialty bar drinks amid a spacious nightclub. Bartenders pours out beverages from a fully stocked bar as guest saunter to the hardwood dance floor illuminated by the sporadic flickers of a colorful lights. Themed parties for Halloween and New Year’s Eve add variety to weekends, and Friday and Saturday nights introduce crowds to special-guest DJs and their finger-puppet entourages. Bites from the Lounge’s Italian-inspired menu fuel evening adventurers, with options including gorgonzola chips, Sicilian tilapia, and lemon-mascarpone torte.
At Orange 13, swaths of burnt-orange organza and crystal chandeliers transform tables into secluded enclaves. At two granite-topped bars, bartenders pour 50 handpicked wines and mix martinis with top-shelf liquors. The chefs strive to match the sleek, sultry environs with a menu of creative fusion fare: they adorn a trio of buffalo, elk, and Kobe burgers with brie and bleu cheese and add zest to tender lamb chops with lemon-thyme glaze. To encourage an experience as fun as the cuisine is exquisite, live entertainment and DJs spin beats until 3 a.m., and high ceilings make it plausible that dancing giraffes appear, too. Live bands hit the stage at 8 p.m. on Fridays and DJs begin to spin sets at 11 p.m. on Saturdays.
Casa De Montecristo stocks its ample humidors and regal environs with row after row of tasty smoking tobacco. A La Sirena Trident summons piquancy from the depths of the broadleaf ($9.95), while an E.P. Carrillo Elite hits only the most select flavor notes ($11.95). Casa De Montecristo also boasts a free VIP membership lounge, which can be accessed by calling ahead. The spacious smoking cavern teems with plush amenities such as leather chairs and private humidified lockers. Kick back in the bar and tune in to a flat-screen television, or recline in the theater room for a movie, game, or cigar-smoking tutorial led by Groucho Marx.
It’s a difficult task to pull off—taking a hodgepodge of recycled odds and ends and creating something entirely new. Simone’s Bar, however, has proven up to the challenge. An architectural potpourri of artifacts salvaged from around the city, the Pilsen bar is best known for the retired pinball machines that line its walls. These ancient tables lend a retro vibe to the bar area, where microbrews and cocktails take the place of pins on a recycled bowling lane. Other idiosyncratic elements include chemistry tables from nearby Westinghouse High School, conveyer belts from Chicago’s Fanny May Candies factory, and a chandelier molded from bicycle chains and rocking chairs. Combined with the solar panels on the rooftop, these repurposed knickknacks have earned Simone’s status as a three-star certified green restaurant. Simone’s décor may come from all corners of the city, but its food is influenced more by the bar’s immediate surroundings. Empanadas and a grilled cheese sandwich with Chihuahua cheese nod to Pilsen’s proud Mexican heritage, as do burgers topped with jalapenos and guacamole. The drink menu also has a local slant, highlighting Chicago brews and craft cocktails that would feel right at home in one of the galleries on nearby Halsted Street.
Though he relies primarily on local ingredients when crafting his Vietnamese cuisine, executive chef Kay Bui structures his menu around a principle that may seem foreign to American diners. He serves small plates in the context of a communal meal, as is common practice in Vietnam. Together, guests can explore the exotic tastes of charbroiled pork wrapped in rice paper, sautéed asparagus doused in a spicy brown sauce, or shrimp and crabmeat stir-fried with vermicelli noodles and mixed vegetables. Bartenders complement the kitchen’s output with house-infused spirits and an extensive wine list that highlights organic and biodynamic reds and whites. At Sawtooth Restaurant, meals unfold in one of three places: a spacious dining room notable for its earthy tones and clean lines, a lounge with custom booths and modular box tables, or a garden patio surrounded by exposed brick and patrolled by Indochinese tigers.