A Clean, Well-Lighted Place...
So, I've been in Chicago nine months and I haven't found my perfect bar. I need your help.
When I lived in Dallas it was Lee Harvey's (think about it). A ram-shackled house in a desolate, industrial part of town, surrounded by a large fenced in yard, picnic tables, fire pits, and hammocks. Everyone brought their dog, and at night they'd have live music or relied on a killer jukebox. Food was simple and good, honest burgers, steak frites, great cocktails, and buckets of Shiner.
When I lived in Vegas it was the bar at Bouchon (the Keller outpost). A clean and refined place, without stuffiness or the air of superiority. Delicious wines by the carafe, exceptional raw bar, and much more. I never felt cramped, it was effortless and casual elegance.
These places probably couldn't be more different, except that they both felt like home. In either place I could show up in the afternoon alone, and know I could enjoy drinks in a wonderful, well lit atmosphere while quietly reading. And if I showed up at night the place would be vibrant and energetic.
Where is this place in Chicago? Where is this place for you?
Where have you been?
For me, I like the Hopleaf when it first opens at 3. Quiet, excellent beer, and the bartenders don't look taken aback if you pull out a book. Also later at night it gets lively and the food is beyond reproach. ANDERSONVILLE
I also like Ricochets and Huttenbar. Ricochet's is more old man bar with a slight undertone of hipster. This is where you can watch the game with guys who wear team jerseys without a hint of irony and drink some good quality beer. Huttenbar is a German bar with lots of light especially if get a window seat. Great people watching and Spaten. LINCOLN SQUARE
Map Room. Starts out quiet, ends up lively. Great beer selection. No food (occasionally there is food, check out their web site for more info).
The Map Room
1949 N Hoyne Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
I think it really depends on where you live--I prefer a place close to home.
So, for me, it would be The Beat Kitchen on Belmont @ Hoyne.
The Bluebird in Bucktown! I wouldn't normally quote from Metromix, but this is about right:
"The owners of Websters Wine Bar, the popular Lincoln Park hangout, have branched out with this gastropub. The stylish interior is rustic-industrial, featuring salvaged lighting fixtures and reclaimed wood . . . The beer menu is extensive, with about 50 selections that put small-batch, hand-crafted brews in the spotlight. (But yes, there's a decent wine list that even oenephiles will love.) The food is better than what you might expect (and cheaper, too)." -- Metromix Chicago
This is definitely a spot worth trying, regardless of the neighborhood you're coming from.
Alternatively, last week I was eating at The Gage, on Michigan by Millenium Park, and saw at least one happy reader enjoying a pint amongst the restaurant buzz.