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Laura asks, “My husband and I are staying in the Loop next month, during our holiday break. What are some can’t miss spots for drinks, night life, and, most importantly, Sunday morning brunch.” Thanks for writing in, Laura! I feel like night life and things to do downtown should be an entirely separate post full of funners. So, for now let’s cover drank and brank, I mean brunch. Let’s get to it.
Libation for your Staycation
Surrounded by office buildings, the lounge scene in the Loop caters mostly to work lunches and happy hours. I’m not quite sure what these businesses do during the holiday season. My guess is they mostly close shop and wait it out till January 2nd. No worries. A few blocks from The Loop, walking distance, you’ve got River North and its plethora of pubs. A short cab ride, less than 10 minutes, takes you to the West Loop where some of the city’s hottest restaurants and bars are bustling all year round.
Three Dots and a Dash (River North) – Drift away to a secluded beach in Hawaii after a long day of shopping and sightseeing in the Chicago cold at Three Dots and a Dash, a high-end Tiki bar in River North. Select from a wide range of well-crafted classic and modern Polynesian inspired mixes. Each Tiki mug is available for purchase, a great souvenir idea.
My suggestion? The bar’s namesake, made with two types of rum, honey, lime, and bitters.
All cocktails are $13.
CH Distillery (West Loop) – CH is Chicago’s only grain-to-bottle vodka distillery and bar. Sip cocktails infused with spirits made right on the property, surrounded by their cool setup of glistening metal tanks and bottling machines. If you’ve got a little more time, schedule a tour where you’ll learn the science behind “baking” booze. Bottles of vodka, gin, and other spirits are available for purchase.
My suggestion? Fall off the Wagon, made with vodka, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, and spices.
All cocktails are $11.
Mercadito (River North) – So very serious about Tequila, Mercadito offers a dizzying list of varieties by type and brand. If shots aren’t your thing, try their handcrafted cocktails made with top shelf tequila. If the crowd above ground gets to be a bit much, head downstairs to Double A, a concept bar focused on providing a more personalized experience.
My suggestion? La Margarita Tradicional from Mercadito made with Grand Marnier and organic agave nectar.
Cocktails are priced from $11.50 – $13.
Brunch a Bunch
I could easily discuss brunch on both an anthropological and gastronomical level (in fact, I have). If every meal was brunch, oh how perfect the world would be. Alas, this sublime spread is reserved solely for Sundays – and holidays.
We’ve already covered Chicago’s best places to brunch, a short list of only 5 spots dotted through the city. There’s definitely many more restaurants going above and beyond for the breakfast hybrid. Here are a few more, specifically located near your downtown hotel.
Frontera Grill (River North) – Master of Mexican cuisine, Rick Bayless offers here a Saturday brunch filled with everything from street food like taquitos to house specialties like red chile-glazed bacon and corn pancakes. If you love Mexican food, I do recommend you try at least one of his four restaurants while staying downtown. Brunch at Frontera gives a great overall idea of the creator’s genius.
My suggestion? Chilaquiles with guajillo. Check online for the current menu.
Avec (West Loop) – It’s no surprise that one of the city’s most celebrated eateries offers an amazing brunch. (It was voted as the best new brunch in Chicago.) Try the breakfast paella made with confit chicken, or the pancetta and egg pizza, or their wood oven baked French toast. Finish things with a Peach Fuzz, mixed with peach sorbet and Spanish wine.
My suggestion? French toast and chocolate mousse mixed with mint.
Au Cheval (West Loop) – When describing Au Cheval, it’s hard to know just where to begin. Okay, so it’s a diner, kind of. But don’t think of a diner, think of some delicious French brasserie you’re just fortunate enough to stumble upon while strolling the streets of Paris, out of the way, owned by a thoughtful butcher and his charming wife. They cheerfully serve fried bologna sandwiches that taste better than anything you’ve ever had. They pour rich duck gravy over eggs, potatoes, and sausage dishes. They’re serving champagne and breakfast beer. Now, imagine this brasserie is in Chicago and it’s packed full of hipsters and trend chasers. That’s Au Cheval.
My suggestion? Fried bologna sandwich and a fresh mimosa.
Have a delicious time, Laura!
Readers, any spot I missed that would’ve been on your list?