Last Wednesday, in a rare occurrence, three of my friends were downtown, had nothing to do and were thirsty. Perfect, I thought, as I too was downtown. But I was also feeling lazy and frugal, so I set out to find a spot with drink specials and ample seating. It was pouring out, and the thought of hanging out in a crowded bar, trying to compete with five umbrellas for elbow space, just didn't seem like a good idea.
Enter: Nick's Fishmarket Grill. I don't eat fish, and I wasn't too excited about the prospect of drinking around anyone who was eating it. But whoever this Nick is, I owe him a thank you. And maybe a trout. Because the upstairs bar is my new favorite downtown drinking spot. (Well, at least for this week; I can make you no promises.)
Nick's basement-level restaurant is super swanky; the upstairs grill, billed as the more casual of the two, still offers a nice amount of Loop glamour: You sit at tables, for the most part, not barstools, the lighting is low, and the clientele is nicely dressed—and comfortingly familiar. One look around confirmed that the whole, quintessential downtown gang was accounted for: the guys in expensive suits, the IT team in the corner booth, and the lady bankers who dared to accessorize with color. Definitely catering to the happy hour crowd, Nick's often has a short wait right after 5 p.m., but by 7 p.m., it's a whole different game. We got there around 6 p.m., and we were able to sit down immediately.
The inside bar decor may be nice, but it was Nick's external view that sold me; its giant windows offer a glimpse of downtown, surrounding offices and, on the night I went, rain—lots and lots of rain. It made the place feel cozy, and as the monsoon waged on, it made the decision to stay for another round an easy one.
For the first round, we ordered the nightly special, a tasty (and strong) Absolut Peach screwdriver for $6. After just one, deterred by the consequences of drinking two consecutive strong breakfast drinks at night, I switched to wine.
To my surprise, Nick's also had a number of $2 happy hour appetizers served until 8 p.m. I sampled (and by "sampled," I mean "inhaled") the tangy cheese bites. My friends opted for the chicken nachos, which, judging by the gleaming plate the waitress took away shortly after it hit our table, were also good.
We stayed out a little too late, enjoying cocktails and watching the rain, and finally my friends ran off to catch cabs and buses, determined to get home without getting soaked. I, on the other hand, failed at that task, but was nevertheless pleased with the evening's outcome.
If hump day hangover-inducing nights aren't your thing, don't worry; Nick's Grill has $6 drink specials every weeknight, ranging from apple martinis to a tangerine margarita, which I fully intend to return to Nick's to try—knowing my luck, probably moments after the first snowfall hits.
Erin Brereton is our resident urban cowgirl on a bi-weekly search for life on the cheap. If you know of the mythic happy hour that she missed, do clue her in.