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The Exchange

View Map1270 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
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Editorial Review of The Exchange

The old Lava Lounge has continued its metamorphosis to become the Exchange. Longtime Wicker Parkers may be disappointed, but fans of intricate cocktails rejoice.

Very little molting has occurred. Actually, with the exception of losing the pervasive red lighting, the small, narrow bar looks just about the same as Lava Lounge did when it closed at the end of 2009. Remaining are the long granite bar with modern leather-cushioned bar stools, the gray, angular couches lining the wall and the seating area by the front window. The light, kept quite low, comes from small candles and hanging lights that look like alien beehives and plasma balls.

That darkness makes it a little tough to read the drink list, which is the Exchange's main difference. The leather-bound menu is centered around 10 carefully crafted cocktails that hover in the $10 range, and there's also a pair of Negroni options (gin, vermouth and bitters) and a couple punch bowls for four to six people. The remainder of the drink list is equally interesting, with several wines by the glass and a lengthy list of bottled craft beer. Two Belgian ales are available on tap, as is soda made by Half Acre.

All that drinking can lead to dancing, but the Exchange's clientele, who range from neighborhood residents rolling in wearing jeans to folks dressed only slightly less nicely than the suit-clad doorman, are finding more of a sit-down bar than its predecessors were.

That's a matter of degree, though; weekday music is usually moderately-volumed electronica, and the weekends will still host DJs at the turntable booth that sits toward the back, although it promises to be a bit tamer than the parties that would take over Lava Lounge.

Centerstage Reviewer: Alexander Hough

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6 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday-Friday; 6 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday

Directions to The Exchange

Our directions are included with our maps of The Exchange
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