Chicago: Tiki Bars and Coffee

I realized that in my drafts folder on this blog sat two articles about traveling to Chicago. Most people would comment on historic buildings, sports teams, and likely shopping, but as you can guess, I only see the inside of taverns and restaurants on most visits. I mean, sure, I sight see. But I’m usually only sightseeing on a direct path from one eatery to the next. Here’s a brief look at a trip this winter:

Pippin’s Tavern is a Irish pub tucked off the always-hectic tourist trap of the Magnificent Mile. If you’re distracted by nice cars, and American Girl stores, you’ll miss this little bar connected to a hot dog joint. Damn you, Pippin’s for redoing your floors recently! The decades of drinkers were etched into the floorboards and hangs in the air. Get out of that effing Nike Town, and go for at least a Char Dog and a Chicago local brew.

Eataly is a mall of Italian food, and I’m not sure how else to say that. From cups, to coffee, to a bread shop, and meat counter, it’s a multi-tiered, white, glistening mecca of belly fillers. You can see it, taste it, and take it home. It’s the best shopping experience you’ll find in the area, not to mention the only one that allows you to drink while you shop.

Three Dots and a Dash is a tiki-bar hidden in an alley. Make reservations in advance for easiest entry, but walk-in’s are welcome if you can endure the line. Greeted by an entrance of glowing skulls, luau- clad waitresses serve you tropical dishes and cocktails in drinkware a la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom dinner party minus the monkey brains.

Three Arts Cafe Club is a retail store disguised as a mansion with good food and a coffee bar set in the Gold Coast. A beautiful space for lunch, a nice escape for a coffee, and an excuse to lay around on $15,000 couches that will never be in my house, this is a land-marked- school- of-music-now- furniture- showroom for Restoration Hardware. Snag a table in the two-story atrium for a great view. Or, do what I do, and roam it like an art gallery until you head to the roof for a short nap.

Now, get the hell out of downtown. The gold lies in the neighborhoods.

The Radler will greet you with it’s big, beautiful, vibrantly stripped doors. Inside, you’ll find a modern German beer hall and damn good food. The brunch menu provided a danish as a sidecar, and my Bloody Mary had a haus helles back too. No one can argue with that.

If you’re up on Milwaukee Avenue anyway, enjoying the jewels of Logan Square, don’t leave. There are a lot of choices, it just depends on how much you can handle.

Yusho is a short trip up the road, and a must visit, if only to consume Booze Sodas from adorable tiny cans, or a Sipper & Ripper. It would be a sin if you didn’t get some ramen too. If anything, carry it with you on your travels knowing it could be the sustenance that saves your life.

Lost Lake is a short walk from Yusho, and hidden by an entrance that appears to be a walk-up counter for take out. Inside is a (yes, I went to two) tiki bar that boasts some serious industry accolades. If you have to choose between places with fun drinkware, and Polynesian cuisine, head north west to this stop.

Lastly, as in 99% of the trips I make to Chicago,  I visited my dear Ipsento in Bucktown. What will forever be my favorite coffee place, closely rivaled by Fuel locally, this coconut-milk-honey- espresso has etched a very deep, caffeinated hole in my heart. It fills a void I think church goers would relate to taking communion wine, it serves my soul with every sip.

With a sassy Ipsento in one hand, and an almond scone in the other, I usually head out of town with a lump in my throat and a full belly.


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