Drink of the week:
xoxoxoxo Martini at Landmark
The damage: $11
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? If you judged a city by its landmarks, you'd likely give Chicago top marks. We've got the Sears Tower, the stunning blue waters of Lake Michigan, the beautiful but heartbreaking Wrigley Field and the glistening Bean, among countless others. But one landmark that I think we need to add to the equation is Landmark Grill + Lounge. It's located in an area of the city that's ironically devoid of anything even approaching landmark-like status (save for maybe Steppenwolf), though I might give a vote for the nearby Whole Foods' fruit section. I can't get enough of those juicy pluots.
How it went down: A massive, multi-room, three-level space, Landmark boasts various settings fit for any occasion—including a cell phone call. (There's a tucked-away booth provided for your "can you hear me now" moments.) I bypassed the more formal dining room and settled in to one of the bar's high-backed booths, ready and eager to get my hands on a martini glass.
Unlike Landmark's food menu, a well-edited selection of seasonally focused plates, the cocktail list is a doozy. While not intentionally overwhelming, the offerings are so different and delicious-sounding that picking one can present a challenge. When I spotted Patron XO on the list of ingredients in the xoxoxoxo, I knew I'd met my match. I had tasted the coffee-infused tequila on (where else?) the Patron Tequila Express, a behemoth of a vintage-looking train that travels the country to remind people why tequila is their friend. I got an invite aboard when it made a stop in Chicago this past spring, and although traditional tequilas were the focus of the event, it was XO that I wanted to guzzle by the gallon.
Landmark layers it—quite literally actually, as the ingredients remain separate, colorful tiers in the glass—with Stoli Vanilla Vodka and Chambord (a raspberry liqueur). The concoction started off intensely strong and then slowly eased into a blend that tasted like chocolate-coated espresso beans dipped in raspberry ganache. If such a treat exists, I'm going to need a whole box.
Would I want to become a regular? With a drink that strong, it was to my luck that a certain hearty pizza, topped with gobs of squash puree, salty pecorino and buttery rabbit confit, hit my lips shortly after round one. The overall effect, despite the caffeine-injected booze, was mighty relaxing, thanks in no small part to the environs, which seem to channel an elegant South-Pacific paradise with bamboo lanterns and an arched, slatted wood ceiling. The only thing missing: a plaque denoting its landmark class.
Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.