After the indoor smoking ban, officially dubbed the Clean Indoor Air Ordinance, was tightened up in Chicago in 2008, the only spaces that saw billowing plumes of smoke were rib joints. Cigar bars went the way of other enjoyable things like hand-written letters and butcher shops. You can, however, light up at a handful of spots in and around the city, some with a snifter of brandy, and recall VCRs, classified ads and cash registers that go “ka-ching.”
The Redhead Piano Bar
16 W. Ontario St.
Chicago, IL 60654
The 50-something-year-old Redhead Piano Bar offers one of the few legal smoking areas in the city – which is outdoors, covered and heated so you need not rely only the Scotch to warm you up on a winter night when you have a hankering for a stogie. When you’ve tired of rounds of “Sweet Caroline” and the top 10 songs sung on “Glee,“ single malts, bourbon and whisky will complement the dozen or so fine cigars sold here and a few moments stolen on the patio will feel like heaven.
Iwan Ries & Co.
19 S. Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603
Built in 1881, the Iwan Ries Building is not only the oldest surviving building designed by Adler & Sullivan, but the fifth generation of the Ries family works at the Iwan Ries & Co. smoke shop. You can actually light up among all of the history at the Iwan Ries Lounge, downtown Chicago’s only smoking lounge which is also a BYOB, so bring your favorite sort and Iwan will provide the glassware (there’s a CVS that sells alcohol just down the street). Count on free Wi-Fi, cushy chairs and two HD screens in three different rooms: The Board Room, The Front Room and the Landmark Room. A single day pass will put you back $15 but with other options so limited, regulars say it’s definitely worth it. The Iwan Ries Lounge is also available for after-hours rental.
Chicago’s largest boutique humidor with dozens of very low production, rare cigars, Blue Havana attracts puffers from around the Chicagoland area. Try an Ouroboros or Abaddon blended for Blue Havana by Roma Craft cigars, one of America’s premier boutique cigar manufacturers (with tobacco from Nicaragua). Open seven days a week and until midnight on Friday and Saturday, the vintage smoking lounge is decked out in old school monster posters and framed pages from bygone gangster magazines and newspapers. There’s also a hookah lounge for those so inclined.
Related: Best Cocktail Bars In Chicago
6355 W. Montrose Ave.
This smoking lounge may feel like Utopia to cigar smokers with free Wi-Fi, flatscreen televisions and even free popcorn. The shop offers a myriad of brands, price points, shapes and sizes as well as a private label “Utopia Blue,” a popular Dominican cigar. The only rule is that whatever is smoked at Utopia must be purchased on the premises. There are no pretenses here so ask what terms like “Colorado,” “Maduro” and “Seco” mean and just when one should tap the ash.
Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.