photo: Courtesy of Vida
A fancy dinner followed by a night on the town sounds like a luxurious way to jazz up the weekend. But getting a reservation at an in-demand resto and making it to the bars before the lines pile up can be more hassle than it's worth. Our favorite solution: Save yourself some time by making one of these nightspots your wining-and-dining destination for the evening. Each offers chic cocktails paired with beyond-the-basics bar food, served in a joint that's ripe for chilling in long after the dishes have been cleared. Come early, stay late and rise above the burger.
Enjoy an edible "treatment" at Stone Lotus
Chicago's first "liquor spa" elevates imbibing to a downright elegant affair. Stone Lotus's unique "Liquor Treatments" pair liquors with small plates (or assiettes) meant to bring out the alcohol's aroma and texture. Smoked salmon and trout, prawns with tomato and horseradish and homemade frites with caviar dip accompany bottles of frozen vodka. Drink garnishes include blue cheese-stuffed olives, fresh basil and mint; mixers like homemade huckleberry lemonade make cranberry juice seem downright complacent. The champagne treatment comes with chic accoutrements like apricot sirop and licorice sugar. Expect treatments to ring in in the $200-range.
Munch on fresh maki at Victor Hotel
Guests who check into this upscale lounge fit a sophisticated profile; a joint for slamming down tequila shots the Victor Hotel is not. Instead, expect super-VIP libations like Roberto Cavalli vodka ($325 a bottle, found at very few and select locations throughout the city) and the fit-for-Lifestyles-of-the-Rich-and-Famous Faberge Egg special: If you've got $2,000 to spend on a wildly opulent evening, order a Faberge egg that opens to reveal a crystal decanter filled with imperial Russian vodka. Four gold-leaf-encrusted shot glasses are included in the royal presentation. A bowl of peanuts just wouldn't get along with such upscale sipping, so select accompanying eats off a menu of fresh maki featuring the monster-size Godzilla roll and green tea creme brulee topped with fresh berries.
Enjoy unique comfort fare at Lakeview Broadcasting Company
This buzz-garnering lounge has hip down to a tee: The staff sports attire made by the bassist from Fall Out Boy, a glass room peopled with models makes for an intriguing human fish-tank, and the dynamos behind the Co. sharpened their nightlife skills at hotspots like the Hard Rock Hotel. The food that's dished out beside top-shelf cocktails puts a whimsical spin on comfort classics; soups are served in martini glasses with a grilled cheese skewer, while savory french fries arrive with unlimited dipping sauces. Thoughtful details make ordering the food even more fun; seared edamame comes with a side of Handi-Wipes.
Nibble on posh pizzas at Fulton Lounge
The loft-like Fulton Lounge is equipped to handle Chicago's ever-changing temperatures; in the summertime, French doors open to an alfresco sipping spot, and a fireplace cozies the space up for the rest of the year. A fruit-laden martini menu features seasonal flavors, while bottles of champagne are available for as little as $32; red and white wines fall into a similarly reasonable price range. The drinks pair peachily with a menu of posher-than-pepperoni pizzas. House specialties include the Rustica (white pizza with mozzarella, emmenthal and onion) and the Cesereccia, with mushrooms, gorgonzola and fresh tomatoes. Top it off with the Torte alle Mandorie: lady fingers layered with mascarpone cream and topped with almonds.
Also worth mentioning:
J Bar The James Hotel's sleek lounge offers eats off the David Burke menu. Things get meaty with Kobe sashimi doused in truffle sauce.
Vida This bi-level lounge-cum-restaurant offers Argentinean eats like hand-carved prosciutto with hearts of palm, grilled skirt steak and Argentinean sausage.