by Dan Morgridge
Brrrr. It’s getting colder out there, and the trek to the whiskey cabinet is a lot closer than your local watering hole. But most people make a crummy Manhattan, and drinking it under blankets with slippers can only happen so many times in a row before cabin fever hits. If you want to have some fun without freezing your buns, check out these very literal winter hot spots.
When you picture your average Chicago bar patron, Oscar Wilde is probably pretty low down the list. But just because there’s a bit of unexpected class about Wilde Bar doesn’t mean it should scare you away. In fact, the raging fireplace is just one of many cozy bits of atmosphere in the place–tall bookshelves stacked with good reads, a beer menu a step above the norm, and plenty of tasty snacks that scoff at moderation–sweet potato fries with goat cheese fondue, anyone?
Vertigo Sky Lounge
A rooftop… in winter? Hold on, hold on. Trust the folks at Dana know how to handle luxury, and that it doesn’t involve you getting hypothermia with a martini frozen to your hand. The space is uber-hip and usually booked for private parties, but several evenings–including New Year’s Eve–are open to the public. But the best feature won’t be available until January; the construction of a bar made entirely of ice, complete with fire pit, complimentary robes, and flaming shots. (This is the closest you will ever come to being a wizard in public.)
The tall ceilings, cut logs, and stonework throughout this Ukrainian Village bar make for impressive associations. Ski lodge? Ancient castle? Chic German neo-future nostalgia? Whatever it is, it’s classy, and it’s got a roaring fireplace near the bar to spread class and heat throughout the room. A delicious selection of craft brews and international brews goes nicely with apps like their Thai drum sticks or bison meatloaf sliders. The outdoor patio is obviously a little too far for the fire to warm, but on occasion, they’ll throw up enclosures over the extra-long banquet table and make a nice private room for you and a hoard of friends (sit close for maximum warmth!).
Big Star already makes for a great winter spot: they have some of the city’s best white-boy Tex-Mex, a great selection of whiskey, and more tequila/mezcal cocktails than you can shake a stick at. But just to make sure you can’t resist coming back in the cold months, they’ve winterized the patio, adding an overhang and some heat lamps so you can squeeze a few more friends in (who can in turn squeeze another pitcher of margaritas in). Of course, if you’re just interested in the food, you can visit the walk-up window and then hang out in their Christmas-tree-selling trailer…
One of the mainstays of Wrigleyville, Uncommon Ground is certainly an uncommon occurrence amongst the sports bars and hook-up havens that litter Clark around Wrigleyville. Part concert venue, part coffee/tea shop, part craft beer bar, UG has got a smattering of everything. And all of it is a little more enjoyable in the winter gathered around their central hearth. Not only are they one of the greenest restaurants on earth, but they also have a tasty menu of locally produced products, meaning that you can hang out by the fireplace with a warm feeling from both sustainable living and, well, the fire.