Drink of the week:
A Pisco Sour at Rinconcito Sudamericano
, 1954 W. Armitage Ave., on a Wednesday night.
The damage: $6.
Thousands of bars in Chicago, why this one? If you had asked me about my hobbies a year ago, I would've sounded like a senior in high school trying to pad her resume before applying to college. I was a proud member of a game club, dining club, book club and walking club. The book club never got over Pablo Escobar's nonstop slaughtering in Killing Pablo, and the walking club disbanded when our pedometers broke. To my luck, I still get to kick some meeple (that's game club lingo for human-like pieces) ass and dine at different, unfamiliar restaurants with my dining group, the Saucy Sirens. And that was how I ended up at Rinconcito Sudamericano—to dine on Peruvian cuisine with the Sirens.
How it went down: After stopping for a beer at the Bucktown pub Charleston's, the club was ready for another round when we got to Rinconcito. With no drink menu, we inquired about our options, and our waitress said, "Pisco and beer." Beer, I know well, but Pisco was foreign to me. In the exploratory spirit of the Saucy Sirens, I ordered a Pisco Sour without hesitating. Into a blender went a shot of Peruvian Pisco (a brandy-like liquor distilled from grapes), lime juice, egg whites and sugar. The waitress blended it all until the egg whites formed a frothy layer. She poured the mix into a tulip glass, and topped it with a dash of cinnamon and a lime wedge. The sugary, tart concoction tasted remarkably like a slice of key lime pie.
Would I want to become a regular? I've never been to Peru so I can't vouch for Rinconcito's authenticity, but the food tasted deliciously distinct. Loads of smoky spices seasoned the rich walnut cream sauce coating the shredded chicken in my plate of aji de Gallina, and the complimentary jalapeno garlic paste had layers of flavor beyond its two ingredients. Unfortunately, the decor wasn't as favorable. The room had all the ambience of a Holiday Inn rather than the rustic Peruvian cafe I had hoped for. Garish mirrors straight out of 1982 flanked the formally-set tables with floral-upholstered chairs. And the soundtrack, traditional Peruvian songs intermixed with fast-paced disco beats, while fun, was lost on the families and small, quiet groups dining that night.
While I wouldn't go out of my way to eat at Rinconcito again, I'm quite thankful that it introduced me to Pisco Sour. Since that night, I've been craving its perfect balance of sweet and sour; enough so that it might just warrant starting another club—a cocktail club. Our first meeting will be a Pisco Party.
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.