Formerly: It's true that downtown piano bars are often home to tourists and suburbanites out for a night on the town. Grape Street and Vine, which has set up shop on Ontario Street in Streeterville, is no exception to that rule. What makes Grape Street exceptional is its quiet, noirish vibe. In contrast to the rocking dueling pianos at Howl at the Moon and the upscale lounge vibe at Redhead Piano Bar, Grape Street is where Humphrey Bogart would have hung out after a day at Navy Pier and dinner at Lawry's.
Friday and Saturday nights find Arturo at the piano, in his signature panama hat, playing classic piano tunes and accompanied by a drum machine. His oeuvre includes all the standards in addition to more modern selections: Request his version of R. Kelly's "Remix to Ignition" to get the waitresses bouncing. Careful about the bouncing waitresses, though; their tuxedo-jacket uniforms are painfully short, especially painful for the men whose dates find them looking. The walls are littered with somewhat cheesy photos of musicians like Bob Dylan and Billy Joel, and there's a small area for dancing near the piano.
The room is small and tables are hard to come by. The hostess (usually Carol, the owner) will greet you promptly and direct you to a table if one opens up. But even if you have to stand, one of Grape Street's exotic martinis will loosen you up. The extensive martini list may intimidate the indecisive, but the waitresses are friendly and patient, even if it takes you a while to decide. There's also a good selection of wine and all of the typical beer offerings. Prices are average for a downtown bar, but there is no cover charge, which will save you a couple bucks up front.
Centerstage Reviewer: Aimee Hall