This is a guest post by Ginger Hultin of becomingginger.blogspot.com. This Seattleite gone Chicago girl is a Registered Dietitian and has a MS from Bastyr University in nutrition. She specializes in cancer care, cardiac rehabilitation, and weight management.
It is difficult to choose the “best” restaurants in Chicago because there are so many classics as well as new hot spots popping up weekly. For someone who loves great food and drinks, the possibilities are endless. These top favorite places to ‘grab a drink’ are restaurants that I go to again and again; they never disappoint. If you don’t see one of your favorites, then maybe I haven’t been…..or maybe I went and didn’t like it 😉
RMChampagne – 116 North Green St
I found RM Champagne when they followed me on Twitter. Me: champagne? I’m in. And I’ve been going there ever since. The cheese plates and candy selection bar are novel, but I come here for the unique atmosphere and bubbly. It is a great place for a date or a drink while you’re waiting to get into another Randolf Street restaurant. The servers are all looking very dapper, dressed in suspenders and other hipster-chic attire, the service is quick and professional, and the drink menu is very decent. You’ll have to find the entrance marked by a subtly placed doorman, microphone in ear, walk down an alley and up the stairs. I would suggest a reservation if you’re going with a big party, but not if you go early or just want to stand at the bar. One of my favorite things about RM…they always return my Tweets! And I always Tweet when I’m there. @RMchampagne
VioletHour – 1520 N Damen Ave
The Violet Hour has “rules” which I enjoy but at times wish were stricter, like when we recently got sat next to three fellow diners who spent the entire evening on their individual phones texting. Me: “You’re not allowed to be on your phones in here, correct?” Server: “You can text, you just can’t talk”. Change it Violet Hour! The dark coziness and intimacy of conversation among friends is what makes this place so great. Plus, the seating can be close given the big communal couches. I’ve never eaten here; I prefer to pop next door and have tacos at Big Star, but coming in for an early beverage seems to work very well as I don’t like waiting outside in the cold for that long on display. Unmarked door off the Damen Blue Line stop with an ever-changing mural painted on the outside, you will usually see a line of smartly-dressed young professionals lined up outside. If you don’t see a line, it’s time to stop by. Don’t like gin? Don’t like tequila? The Violet Hour may change your mind with their plethora of unique cocktails worth taking a risk on.
Tip: T.S. Eliot wrote a dark poem called The Waste Land in 1922 referencing the “Violet Hour”:
At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread Her drying combinations touched by the sun’s last rays,
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest—
I too awaited the expected guest.
Telegraph – 2601 N. Milwaukee Ave
Basque is hard for me because of the meat-heavy dishes. To be honest, I’ve never eaten at Telegraph but it is a destination for me to have a glass of wine with a friend at the bar. There is a wine there that tastes like minerals and it is fantastically fascinating: côtes–du–rhône brèzeme, France. The dryness and unique flavor always has me asking for another glass; it literally tastes like you are licking a slab of limestone…in a good way. Every time I’ve been here, the bartenders are so helpful, offering advice on the menu without being overly chatty. They play music so good that it makes me stay longer. Modest Mouse croons as I sip my minerally French-Basque red. I love this place on a dark, rainy night.
What is your favorite place to grab a drink, Chicago?