Poring over a page-turner with a glass of wine or beer at hand is an everyday activity for those lucky Europeans. While Americans tend to associate "you and a book" dates with Sunday afternoons spent sipping lattes, there are many bars, cafes and restaurants in Chicago that serve alcohol and atmosphere for local literati. Go ahead, grab your Kafka and have a Hemingway day.
Caffe de Luca
A cross between a barn in the country and a Tuscan cafe, this cafe/bar is swathed in earth-toned paints and nestled under ceilings lofted twice as high as the room is wide. Though the sidewalk seating consists of about three tiny tables, Luca's decor brings the outdoors in, with details like smocks and dresses hung from a clothesline and fake flower-frosted balcony. Pick from any wooden booth or table in the house for a decent amount of quiet and personal space. The amenities are all there: natural sunlight streaming in from the skylights, an hour of free wi-fi and an extensive menu of drinks, dishes and desserts, including gelato. Every drink on the basic wine list comes by the glass or bottle, but the exciting options come in the form of hard alcohol mixes, like the "Loopy Rocket Shot" with espresso, cream, sugar and kahlua, or "Sweet Love," with steamed milk, espresso, Guittard chocolate and Stoli Vanil.
Featuring cover-free classical music on Fridays, a monthly reading series and carefully selected wine, Bucktown's Danny's is an obvious pick for drinking and reading. Tolerant of only courteous (if not anachronistic) social behavior, the bar sends cell phone yakkers outside where duct tape squares on the sidewalk signify make-believe cell phone booths. Semi-private seating areas are filled with a multitude of lounging options: From a high-backed leather booth stretching the length of the wall in the very back room to a two-seater cushy couch near the entry and standard bar stools, the place keeps an altogether classy cool but cozy vibe. The only drawback: slim pickings for overhead lighting, but candles abound.
Whether carrying out an affair with a lover or a literary work, romantics will feel at home at La Creperie. From tea lights in wine glasses to red-and-white checkered tablecloths in the back patio just beyond the stained glass sliding door, the restaurant is drenched in a Parisian flair that's as sumptuous as its sweet and savory crepes. Find a full bar stocked with Old World and New World wines, beers and aperitifs. Leave your iPod at home on Thursday nights because accordionist accompanied by the trumpet-toting owner and a singer serenade the guests from 8 p.m. until close.
Duke of Perth
While all-you-can-eat fish and chips Friday nights find this Lakeview pub jam-packed with customers, weekday nights and weekend afternoons leave plenty of space for journaling and cozying up to a corner with a book and a scotch. From candlelit tables scattered across the dark wood floors and an enclosed backyard patio done up with lampposts and flowers, the Duke offers just enough light for reading whilst alluding to a dank and dark style inherent of its Scottish heritage.
Sporting more than 200 different beers (26 on tap) and a particular affinity for American microbrews and Belgian beers, the Map Room may have easily inspired "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall." Don't even think about asking for Budweiser (they don't have it). The place starts the morning off early with Red Hen's bagels and pastries and spends the remains of the day serving up endless mugs of complimentary pretzels, playing crackly jazz recordings on the loudspeakers and basking in the sunlight. Between free wi-fi, beer education booklets and shelf upon shelf of National Geographic and travel books, Map Room offers plenty of its own reading material. However an average afternoon finds plenty of folk bent over their laptops at the curved back, leather swivel stools. You might even catch a regular throwing back a shot with the bartender after acing a final.
Serving up $2 PBR pints and $3 domestics, Green Eye watches out for the punks and artists. Smoking is permitted but stuffy attitudes are not. Tucked between exposed brick walls, with a retro-looking, magnetic poetry-adorned fridge and the occasional trophy on display, the bar feels like your cool friend's basement. Free wi-fi offers an enticing reprieve from your book, but the bar's chalkboard touts an impressive roster of board games like Battleship and Scrabble as well as lesser-known alternatives such as Stick It, What's in My Pants and Tip the Bartender.
Besides a classy, wine bar atmosphere, Enoteca Roma offers an unmatched selection of eats and drinks. While the bar does not begin serving food until 5 p.m., guests may order cafe lunch food from the Letizia's next door. It's an ideal opportunity to snag a chocolate cupcake with one's book and Bordeaux. Enoteca's menu, however, stands well on its own: Roman-style pizza, 29 types of bruschetta, cheese flights, fancy salads and sides of olives, accompanied by an extensive list of wines by the flight, glass or bottle. The dim interior fits only a handful of tables for two and seats at the bar, but outdoor seating areas brimming with umbrellas in the front and the back can handle plenty of customers and their doggies.
Stocked with more books than wine, this indie bookstore hosts a grand collection of lit picks, highlighted along the shelves with those helpful recommendation cards. Once you manage to pull yourself away from the stacks and magazine racks, you'll find an inviting selection of spots to settle into your reading. Those looking for privacy can snag a few flat cushions from the corner to scatter at your discretion or slide into one of the remote chairs tucked behind the bookshelves. Otherwise the cafe tables and chairs; the makeshift living room, minimally adorned with fresh flowers and Oprah's Book Club picks (no book snobs in sight); and the sidewalk seating keep pretty quiet. Priding itself on a seasonal wine selection, the Book Cellar becomes an ideal Friday evening date-stop, featuring a $20 deal of two glasses of wine plus a cheese plate. Care to share? On the first Wednesday of every month the store hosts its own book club, when all wine goes for half-price.