Drink of the week:
A mango martini at Raw Bar and Grill
The damage: $8.50
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? When my 19-year-old cousin came to visit me from Omaha a couple weekends ago, I tried to think of what I liked to do at her age. As a sophomore in college, I would pretty much go anywhere for free food, often stayed up until 2 a.m. with my roomies watching Jenny Jones, and took advantage of Iowa City's then 18+ age limit at bars. I also rented all three versions of "A Star is Born" from the public library, but that's neither here nor there.
These rousing formative years didn't quite translate to what I had in mind when it came to entertaining my cousin, so I opted instead for gorging ourselves on Pequod's killer deep-dish pie on Friday and hitting up the Metro on Saturday to see Superdrag. Before the show, we stopped next door at Raw Bar and Grill, a restaurant that couldn't get any more props from me unless it started shelling out gratis goods—or airing Barbara Streisand flicks.
How it went down: With a visitor in town, I felt like the night called for a celebratory cocktail. The martini list included a range of options from super-sweet Shirley Temple-like concoctions to a straight up dirty. The mango martini, made simply with fresh, thick mango juice and Skyy vodka, caught my eye for its tropical angle.
Contradictory to its name, Raw Bar's menu only includes a few raw items (namely oysters) and mostly consists of seafood and Middle Eastern eats. Every time I come here, I can't get past the filet of salmon, flash fried for a crispy crust and touched with a sweet almond sauce. I knew its lemony, light flavor would meld well with the fruit in my glass. The citrusy zest of the pulpy mango juice toned down the vodka enough to make the cocktail go down easily, but not to the point where it tasted like liquid fit for a juice box.
Would I want to become a regular? Along with the salmon, I can't walk away without the alligator appetizer, slathered in a tarragon tomato sauce with succulent mushrooms. But, apart from the food, the ambience fares just okay; the dining room's dim lighting helps draw the focus away from the random smattering of saris, sea-themed tchotchkes and fake flowers that makes up the decor. On most nights, relaxing live jazz sets the aural atmosphere, though on the night we went, my cousin and I were happy to exchange the cheesy show tunes ("Putting on the Ritz," really?) for the power-fueled pop of Superdrag.
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.