The LBGT-friendly Velvet Rope invites revelers with open minds and refined tastes to enhance their evenings with the lounge's slate of fine wines, international cuisine, and elaborate entertainment in the form of go-go dancers and drag shows. Beneath the suffuse lighting of tulip chandeliers, the bustling main floor hosts a full bar, where 35 specialty martinis brim with creative ingredients—such as cookie-dough vodka and absinthe—while the private VIP loft accommodates dozens with a dedicated server, a private television, and plush furnishings for late-night pillow forts. Food and drink packages deck out special events, and the nightclub's calendar overflows with karaoke nights, drink specials, and live performances.
Rose and Stanley Sacharski never meant to open a tiki bar. Their first watering hole, The Lucky Start on Fullerton and Lockwood, was a simple neighborhood tavern until some bamboo wall coverings inspired endless questions from customers: were they a tiki bar? By 1963, the Sacharskis decided their answer was yes, and let their young son pick a new name—Hala Kahiki—from a copy of Dennis the Menace Goes to Hawaii.
Now located inside a former greenhouse in River Grove, Hala Kahiki pours more than 100 tropical-themed cocktails, mingling rum with daiquiris and gin with tropical fruits. Hanging shells sway above the bamboo-lined bar, and rattan lampshades and cane chairs evoke the pleasures of an endless Hawaiian summer. Tables and chairs dot a spacious outdoor garden, and an on-site gift shop stocks Hawaiian shirts, leis, wood-hewn lamps, and several former cast members of Gilligan's Island.
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.
Legend has it that on December 5, 1933—the day that Prohibition ended—the Zebra Lounge showed Chicago its stripes for the first time. Fittingly, one must pass under the Canterbury Courts’ black-and-white awning to get to this intimate piano bar, where mustard and mauve-painted walls give way to a hung zebra pelt, framed pictures, and zebra-striped lamps. Even the bartenders match the décor, since they often sport black pants and white socks as they sling drinks and play armchair therapist. In-the-know patrons arrive early to sink into leather booths as pianists tap out songs by Frank Sinatra and Neil Diamond, among others. Later on in the night, the cozy, pint-sized joint fills up with a diverse crowd that leaves the pretension at the door and ranges from suit-sporting old-timers to reveling college students. From behind the mirror-lined bar, the staff pours martinis, fills wooden bowls with zesty snack mix, and turns away predatory lions lured by the bar’s sign. Zebra Lounge is many things; as much a chameleon as it is a zebra. It’s a hideaway to those that want it to be one, and place to have great conversation for those looking for one.
To many, the idea of French cuisine inspires images of stuffy maître 'ds and three-figure bottles of burgundy. Those people might be surprised to stumble upon Maude's Liquor Bar, which Brendan Sodikoff—the gastronomic mastermind behind Gilt Bar—designed to embody "a dive bar in Paris," according to Chicago Magazine. In its second floor digs, mismatched chandeliers cast a low glow over salvaged subway tiles and exposed brick walls as diners savor a contemporary French-American menu that its creators describe as “straightforward and sexy with playful twinges.” Though the food is more than worth the wait on weekend nights, the drink list is where Maude’s truly shines. Classic cocktails, such as the Sazerac and the St. Germain Fizz, mingle with unique libations such as the Smash, a drink brimming with mint leaves, citrus wedges, and a choice of spirits ranging from whiskey to chartreuse. Of course, no French dive would be complete without a wine selection, and Maude's list of about 30 reds, whites, and champagnes doesn't disappoint.