Best Wine Bars

Food, Nightlife, Things to Do — By adamgauzza on December 25, 2011 at 9:21 pm
photo by Eric Chan

River North

Stop into BIN 36 to enjoy house label wines, pair them with selections from the enormous (and delicious) cheese program, and take in the sights of the nearby iconic Marina City towers.  Choose from wine flights with names like “Low Down Dirty Reds,” “Express Yourself,” and “Think Pink,” you’ll find something up your alley.

Pops for Champagne offers nearly 200 champagnes and sparkling wines along with high-end atmosphere to inspire sparkling conversation.  If you’re feeling fancy, this is a great place to take a date, especially Sunday through Tuesday for the live jazz combo.  Although a night here is on the expensive side, you’ll make an impressive impression!

North Side

photo by Quinn Dombrowski

Smaller locations on the far north side include Andersonville’s In Fine Spirits, a find for anyone interested in tastes of any kind.   Any of the delicious wines found on the extensive menu can be purchased at the shop next-door, where on the weekends you’ll find winemakers visiting and offering complimentary tastes of their work.  Come in on the third Monday of the month for Wine Geek Night or any Tuesday for 50% off select bottles of wine.  Craft cocktails are another specialty here, so don’t hold back!

Chicago’s smallest, quietest spot for wine is Volo Restaurant and Wine Bar in quiet Roscoe Village, just west of Lakeview.  A neighborhood favorite, Volo has intimate, low-lit seating inside (particularly cozy on a cold Chicago winter night) and one of the most pleasant patios on a lovely summer evening.  You’ll find the owners in-house on many nights, and the extremely knowledgeable staff is friendly and helpful.

Magnificent Mile

photo by Sharat Ganapati

If you’re staying on or near the Magnificent Mile, you’ll find several nearby wine bars that exceed expectations.  ENO (short for oENOlogy) Chicago Wine Bar at the Intercontinental Hotel has 5,000 different bottles of wine to choose from.  The focus is on fun here, and the sultry ambiance lends itself to relaxation instead of pretension.  Immediately upon entering, you’ll see the multi-tiered glass case of specialty cheeses and chocolates, all available for an enhanced experience.  With such an overwhelming selection, you may need to enlist help from the friendly Wine Director, Scott.

Right across the street, you’ll find contemporary style and comfort at The Purple Pig.  This spot is open late nights, and offers many wallet-friendly wines that just so happen to pair well with their pig-centric Mediterranean menu (including house-cured baccalà brandade from executive chef Jimmy Bannos, Jr.).  Pull up a seat at the bar or at one of several communal tables in the beautifully furnished wooden interior, or enjoy the outdoor seating on a warm night set back from busy Michigan Avenue.

Lincoln Park

photo by Chad Magiera
 Along Lincoln Park’s busy Clark Street drag, you’ll find many excellent local treasures including D.O.C. Wine Bar.  Named for Italian wine region Denominazione di Origine Controllata, this sleek bar offers wine flights, generally affordable bottles, and a menu of delicious wine-friendly plates.  Favorites include the tempranillo with sopressata pizza and the mini filet sandwiches.  Leave some room for the skillet cookie and a glass of Madeira.

Farther off the beaten path, the Webster’s Wine Bar combines an international selection of wines and cheeses with creative, locally driven cuisine.  Choose from dozens of wines by the glass or hundreds of bottles.  Each month, the restaurant focuses on a specific region or grape variety and connects interested connoisseurs with trail-blazing small vineyards and wine producers from around the world.  Dinners include regional dishes paired with wines from the same area like confit of duck leg in a fig/ginger/pomegranate sauce, buttered orzo & roasted baby carrots paired with the 2006 Faugères.

Tags: Bin 36, Chicago, D.O.C. Wine Bar, Eno, In Fine Spirits, Intercontinental Hotel, Late night, Pops for Champagne, Purple Pig, Volo, Webster's Wine Bar, wine, wine bar