The south end of Michigan Avenue, beyond the Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park and the Art Institute, often plays the role of the overlooked middle child of the Loop. But nobody should ignore the Congress Lounge (formerly the Tavern Tap), even if all of the famous Michigan Avenue attractions beckon due north. Couched among the historic decadence of the Congress Hotel, the lounge is a surprisingly casual, comfortable place to slurp back a cold one. The bartenders may be wearing ties, but the Golden Tee Machine and jukebox indicate a decidedly relaxed tone. Pool tables, televisions and a mini bowling will also loosen up the stiffs in the room and give everyone another source of entertainment beyond the drinks. The large couches (and I mean couches, not just glorified booths) are a great spot to plunk your backside, whether you are wearing tails or sweatpants. The bar top itself is a durable brass number, sturdy enough that you can slam a glass down to emphasize a point without creating a big fuss.
The red awning outside the bar matches the opulent red carpet in the Congress Lobby, which you must pass through to reach inside the bar. Once at the threshold to the Congress Lounge, the bright red of the hotel's exterior and lobby converts to green awning and dim neon lights, creating a festive, mildly Christmas-like atmosphere. Any time of year, the Congress Lounge is a good place to park the party.
Centerstage Reviewer: Patrick Corcoran