Cardinal W&S is in that strange little triangular island of Lincoln Square
kitty-corner north of the square proper that has seemingly been untouched by time. Lincoln Square Lanes
still soldiers on in all of its mid-'70s glory, antique stores and magic shops still open their doors on a semi-daily basis and discount retailers and resellers find a home north of Lawrence on Lincoln.
Providing them booze is the charge of Cardinal Wine & Spirits. Most of what are called "slashies" – half liquor store, half bar – generally fall down on either/or counts. Either they've got bad selection in a small space, or have a dingy, sub-divey joint for the depressed and indigent. At worst, they have both. Cardinal manages to avoid all of the above, believe it or not.
The wine selection is solid with a good mix at decent prices, the liquor selection has your regular favorite cast of characters, and the beer options get you low end in bulk (30-packs at some of the lowest prices around) and hard-to-find choices (including rare European selections for the mixed-heritage neighborhood that surrounds it). Staff is ready to help answer questions or help you find what you're looking for, even if it's that 6-pack of High Life tallboys in the back of the cooler (not that I know that from experience ... ).
The bar side of Cardinal isn't going to steal away any business from places like the Huettenbar or Chicago Ale House, but for a neighborhood tavern, it certainly stacks up with Ricochet's and Loafers down the street. Staff is friendly and regulars are prevalent, beers are cheap and specials abound. Not to damn with faint praise, but you could do far worse. Not a destination, but a good local joint.
Centerstage Reviewer: Karl Klockars