Enotecas, Etc 

Fifteen wine bars

The Bluebird

The Bluebird

The Atrium Wine Bar

401 E. Illinois | 312-379-0132

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES | DINNER:seven days | OPEN LATE: every night TILL 11

Fox & Obel's newest addition, this wine bar offers a relatively upscale atmosphere at less-than-upscale prices. A modest selection of appetizers, entrees, and desserts—less than 20 in all—is joined on the menu by a couple dozen wines by the glass and half glass and several more by the bottle (at the store's retail price). We started with a well-curated domestic cheese plate (Humboldt Fog, Pleasant Ridge Reserve, and an aged Vermont cheddar). The sweet crab flavor shone through in a blue crab cake special that went well with not only the curry aioli that accompanied it but also the unoaked California chardonnay the waiter recommended. Unfortunately the entrees were less successful. An overly sweet pomegranate sauce made the ginger-spiced chicken breast with sweet potato puree nearly inedible, and the pumpkin was virtually undetectable in an unremarkable pumpkin-and-roasted-duck risotto with spiced pecans. Still, service was excellent, the wine affordable, and by the time we left I'd all but forgiven the missteps with some of the food. —Julia Thiel

Bin Wine Cafe

1559 N. Milwaukee | 773-486-2233

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, small plates | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS  | saturday & sunday brunch | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11:30

As at its parent restaurant, Bin 36, offerings on the seasonal menu here are annotated with recommended wine pairings, and if you can't choose just one, there's always the easy out of a flight, available by the whole or half glass. Under executive chef John Caputo there's lots of good stuff. Tempura green beans, delivered in a little brown paper bag, had a delicious side of aioli. A hanger steak and pommes frites were expertly prepared, and what may just be the best monkfish I've had in my life came with tasty mushroom gnocchi and a whole-clove garlic confit. The roughly two dozen cheese offerings, American and European, are between two and four bucks a slice, opening the door to a huge range of flavors. On weekends, along with Bloody Mary and mimosa flights, brunch offerings include huckleberry-ricotta pancakes and a brunch pizza with spinach, frisee, and a poached egg. The sidewalk patio affords plenty of people watching. —David Hammond

The Bluebird

1749 N. Damen | 773-486-2473

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

This late-night lounge/wine bar/gastropub from the owners of Webster's Wine Bar is a pleasantly understated space, outfitted in a sort of rustic-minimalist vein, with tables made from old wine casks and stools reminiscent of high school chem lab. On a Sunday night at least, it's a nice mellow scene. For the most part the starters are great—lots of cured meats and funky cheeses, salads, flatbreads, and so on. The classic frites, simultaneously crispy and floppy and served with little cups of addictive curried ketchup and garlic aioli, are no-brainer perfection. The seasonal menu features dishes like ale-braised pork cheeks with a cress-strawberry salad and a free-range bison burger. By-the-glass options we tried from the wine list were excellent, and the extensive beer list is sophisticated and heavy on the Belgians. —Martha Bayne

Eno

505 N. Michigan | 312-321-8738

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES | LUNCH: FRIDAY-SUNDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 1, MONDAY-THURSDAY TILL MIDNIGHT  

For a wine bar—not to mention a wine bar specializing, for God's sake, in cheese and chocolate—Eno is blessedly free of frills. In fact, it's downright manly inside this Hotel InterContinental hideaway, with dim lighting, dark wood paneling and red leather walls, and comfy leather-backed bar stools. Wines, cheese, and chocolate are all available a la carte or as flights of three; you can make up your own or pick one from the extensive menu. With the help of a friendly bartender/cheese pusher as refreshingly low-key as the decor I sampled a sinful truffled Gouda and two cave-aged Wisconsin cheeses, one of which—Willi Lehner's Lil' Will's Big Cheese—was on special that month, and a charter member of the stinky-foot cheese club. Wines range from $9 to $110 a glass, and of the more than 700 available by the bottle, around 75 are under $30. There's a second area location in the Hotel Fairmont Chicago (200 N. Columbus, 312-946-7000). —Martha Bayne

Enoteca Roma

2146 W. Division | 773-772-7700

$

Bar/Lounge, small plates, italian | dinner: seven days | open late: friday & saturday till midnight, other nights till 11

This laid-back wine bar is an extension of Letizia's Natural Bakery, a fixture since 1998, and shares its charming back garden seating. It offers Letizia's standard menu plus more than a dozen varieties of bruschetta, pizzas, dinner salads, and a number of meat, cheese, bread, and olive combinations in the tradition of rustic Roman cuisine. Larger plates include pork shoulder in red wine served over polenta, eggplant parmigiana, and lasagna with venison bolognese, but the salumi plates are enough for a light meal or ample snack for two. Enoteca Roma's specialty is, of course, wine, served without attitude: says owner-manager Fabio Sorano, "You can get PBR or you can get Pahlmeyer." —Susanah J. Felts

Fontana Grill & Wine Bar

1329 W. Wilson | 773-561-0400

$$$

ITALIAN, POLISH/RUSSIAN/EASTERN EUROPEAN | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | sunday brunch | open late: friday & saturday till 1 1

You have to pity Nino Divanovic, whose plans to open Fontana Grill, an Italian wine bar with an intriguing concept—offering select pours by the ounce, at $1-$2 a pony shot—were delayed by the city's byzantine liquor licensing process. For months the only grape drunk here was BYO, forcing the focus onto a conservative combination of Italian and Balkan appetizers, pizza, salads, sandwiches, and entrees. The twain meet in an appetizer of cevapi and grilled polenta, minced-beef-and-lamb sausages riding a raft of cornmeal and drizzled with a "cucumber alfredo" sauce that tasted a lot like tzatziki. Thin-crust pizzas are nicely charred, a bit sturdier than other Neopolitan-style efforts around town, and in some cases taken down a peg by less than stellar toppings. One of the most unusual dishes is the house-made papardelle: these rustic, almost dumplinglike noodles have a good flavor and texture but outmuscle their delicate butter and truffle oil sauce. They'd be great with something heavier (Stroganoff, Bolognese). The adjacent garden patio is a glorious place to sample the goods. —Mike Sula

Jack's Bar & Grill/404 Wine Bar

2852 N. Southport | 773-404-5886

$

BAR/LOUNGE, AMERICAN CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | LUNCH: SATURDAY-SUNDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS  | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, MONDAY-FRIDAY TILL 2, SUNDAY TILL MIDNIGHT | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

This multipurpose place in west Lincoln Park has a classic dark wood bar with a fireplace, a big-screen TV, and a lively neighborhood clientele. Beyond that is a billiards room, followed by an intimate wine bar with deep mulberry walls, dark oak wainscoting, and two more fireplaces. There are two menus, both available in either room. Jack's features ambitious American comfort food—like a potpie studded with chicken and vegetables or an ample pork chop dinner with creamy mashed potatoes, sauteed fresh spinach, and a mustard cream sauce—plus basics like sandwiches, burgers, and pizzas. The abbreviated wine-bar menu has a few upscale appetizers like caramelized baked Brie with roasted almonds and artichoke cheese dip, more gourmet pizzas, seasonal cheese flights, and desserts from nearby Bittersweet Bakery. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Joie de Vine

1744 W. Balmoral | 773-989-6846

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, small plates | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, other nights till 2

There weren't any wine flights listed on the menu, even though all of the food (just snacks and desserts—cheese, charcuterie, olives, chocolate truffles) is offered in grouped tasting portions. But when we asked the bartender, he said, "Sure, pick any three wines you want off the menu for $15." The tasting pours were generous, making this a great deal. Joie de Vine doesn't have the deepest wine list, but they do have a reasonable selection of both old- and new-world wines, most bottles between $20 and $40. The sound was off on the flat-panel TV showing a Bulls game, but it still seemed out of place amid the ambient grooves and sleek decor. —Kathie Bergquist

Juicy Wine Company

694 N. Milwaukee | 312-492-6620

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, small plates | DINNER: seven days | OPEN LATE: every night till 2 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

From the name you'd expect Juicy Wine Company to be all about the grape, but the instant you walk in the door it's clear the place is just as much about the cheese. Juicy offers an a la carte selection, along with cured meats and a butter flight that pairs three artisanal butters with various sea salts. We also had a seriously complicated pinot noir. Downstairs the wood-trimmed, minimalist space is split between a wine wall in the front and a low-key seating area of tables and banquettes in the rear. Upstairs is a cozy bar and lounge, complete with DJ booth and a rooftop patio. The staff is helpful, and in all it's a pretty pleasant scene. —Martha Bayne

Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar

954 N. California | 773-292-1616

$

BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES | DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, MONDAY-FRIDAY TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

The main attraction at Humboldt Park's Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar, not surprisingly, is the intriguing list of small-batch beverages put together by a trio of Webster's Wine Bar vets. There are a good many interesting selections—including a passel of wines from Greece, Austria, and unusual spots like Slovenia—among the more than 60 bottles and 17 available by the glass. But executive chef Remy Ayesh's tight, well-curated menu of small and midsize plates, cheese, and charcuterie is no afterthought, peppered with items engineered to trigger Pavlovian gushes of saliva: bar plates include a few sweet and savory duos, including bacon toffee with spiced mixed nuts. Among the generally solid larger plates, the loosely packed burger with bacon-chive aioli is super. This is a fine spot to take a sip or two, dark and comfy with an outdoor patio that in the warmer months brightens an otherwise stark intersection. —Mike Sula

Swirl Wine Bar

111 W. Hubbard | 312-828-9000

$$

bar/lounge, SMALL PLATES | DINNER: TUESDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED: SUNDAY, MONDAY | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 5, wedneSDAY-FRIDAY TILL 4, Tuesday till 2 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

Tucked in next to an adult bookstore, Swirl seems to be taking cues from its neighbor's tactics, teasing with promises but rarely delivering satisfaction. The long, dim room is handsomely outfitted with low banquettes and sofas in tasteful neutrals. Wines by the glass are extensive but hit or miss, and in one instance apparently scant hours from vinegar. The menu covers perhaps a dozen hot and cold global-fusion appetizers (think watermelon-tuna tartare and panko-crusted chipotle crab cakes) and a selection of "pizettes," little pizzas, but even something as simple as a dish of mixed olives fell short. As for the pizza—we ordered one topped with an intriguing blend of caramelized pears and onions, garlic aioli, and fontina and mozzarella cheese—there's not much to say, because by the time we signaled for the check it still hadn't materialized. —Martha Bayne

The Tasting Room & Randolph Wine Cellars

1415 W. Randolph | 312-942-1313

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, small plates | DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY

This sleek two-story bar is stocked with a large selection of spirits and more than 300 wines available by the bottle (about 100 by the glass). The contemporary space has exposed brick walls, natural-wood floors, high ceilings, and huge windows that showcase a dramatic skyline view. The cheese selection is remarkable and very reasonably priced. The menu also includes "flights" of seafood and charcuterie, plus small plates like beef tenderloin skewers and a variety of thin-crust pizzas. Much of the seating area is outfitted with comfy couches, so you can relax for hours. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Vintage 338

338 W. Armitage | 773-525-0521

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES, MEDITERRANEAN | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 2, SUNDAY-THURSDAY TILL 1  | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Father-son team Tom and Chris Barkulis like southern European wine and food, and they want you to as well. It's hard to argue with the case they make for Vintage 338: head chef Blaze Correia (formerly of Rockit); about 30 Spanish, French, and Italian wines; a pretty Lincoln Park location; and late-night hours. The vinos are all $36 a bottle and under, with a slight bias toward the Spanish. While you're choosing, start with an appetizer like the papas asadas, roasted fingerling potatoes with a creamy, tangy aioli. Then pair a light and easy Don Sancho Londono Cortijo blanco with a trio of warmed Brie pyramids—Camembert, champignon, and triple cream—and dip your cheese and bread into the duo of finger-licking honeys; cleanse your palate with a crisp, sweet slice of apple. Move on to the rojos and combine a glass of the excellent Barco de Piedra tempranillo, a Spanish aged in French and American oak, or try a glass of the lingering Arrogant Frog pinot noir with the Español plata, a delectable selection of cantimpalo, sobrasada chorizo, and Serrano ham paired with three cheeses: creamy goat Caña de Cabra, blue-veined Valdeon, and Manchego. Also worth a try is a saumon fume panini, generously portioned smoked salmon bookended by toasted bread with dill and chive spread. —Izidora Angel

Volo Restaurant Wine Bar

2008 W. Roscoe | 773-348-4600

$$

BAR/LOUNGE, SMALL PLATES, CONTEMPORARY/REGIONAL | DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 2, MONDAY-THURSDAY TILL MIDNIGHT | CLOSED SUNDAY

Talented executive chef Stephen Dunne executes a constantly changing menu of small plates: sweet, plump mussels steamed in white wine and butter and flecked with parsley, spicy-sweet steak tartare made with Kobe beef and topped with shards of sesame flatbread. There's an artisanal cheese plate offered every night—it changes frequently but might include French favorites like Epoisses, Valencay, and Sainte-Maure or domestic selections like Humboldt Fog and Point Reyes blue. Wine from an impressive global list comes by the glass, carafe, flight, or bottle, and the large outdoor dining area is pretty as a picture. The kitchen stays open till midnight on Friday and Saturday. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Webster's Wine Bar

1480 W. Webster | 773-868-0608

$

GLOBAL/FUSION/ECLECTIC, SMALL PLATES, BAR/LOUNGE | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: sATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2

This cozy wine bar offers an extensive variety of vintages from around the world. The dark room has comfortable couches in the front window, and there's an upstairs room for crowded weekends or private parties. The wine list is divided into bottles and by-the-glass pours, including two-ounce servings that can be combined to create personalized tasting flights. The list, more than 600 strong, is reasonably priced, with decent midrange options between $26 and $40 as well as splurges to the tune of $500. The wine-friendly food includes artisanal cheese plates, thin-crust pizzas, tapas for sharing, and entrees such as New Zealand rack of lamb. About twice a month Webster's offers casual, innovative wine tastings for between $30 to $50. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Related Locations

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Music
Survival Unit III Experimental Sound Studio
May 29
Galleries & Museums
Girl Play Johalla Projects
April 28

Tabbed Event Search

Popular Stories

Follow Us

Sign up for newsletters »

 Early Warnings
 Food & Drink
 Reader Recommends
 Reader Events and Offers