April, and whether or not nature complies, last I was determined to at least pretend it was spring.
I needed drinks. I needed central heating. I needed…a nautical bar.
Lucky for me, there's one on Michigan Avenue. Initially I intended to check out the Wednesday lunch special at the Weather Mark Tavern, which, rumor has it, reimburses parties of three more for their cab fare (turns out this applies if your cab costs $10 or less) and comes with free coffee, tea or soda if you make a reservation beforehand; but it was so nasty last Wednesday that my lunch buddies declined. Besides, I was having a tough time with the weather that day myself—I even considered setting my arm on fire to warm up on the way to the gym.
Instead, I rounded up two visiting friends the following night, when the Weather Mark offers free live jazz and rum drink specials. It was everything good I remembered about spring break, only without the rat-infested beaches and consistent rum-punch-induced-headache.
I had hoped the bar decor would be more sea-worthy. The walls showcase ship flags, and sails separate the booths, but I wanted more cheese—plastic palm trees, mayhap, a crusty pirate or two.
That said, I suppose island gear would look out of place, given that the bar serves slightly upscale food, like duck nachos for appetizers and venison sausage-stuffed corn dogs, not exactly the ingredients you normally used in hot dogs (pig tails, tire rims, bear feet, etc.).
Appetizers on Thursday go for half-price, but I opted to sample the Appleton Rum special, which means any Appleton mixed drink costs $4. My group ordered a pineapple juice and rum for me, a SoCo and lime (because apparently that ad campaign is working) and an Appleton on the rocks, which was poured stiff and strong.
Much higher-end rum than what I normally drink (yeah, I guess you really can taste that plastic bottle), the Appleton went down so smooth I might consider upgrading, My second drink, a ginger ale and rum, went down even smoother, as second (and ninth) drinks often do.
As for the vibe, it's low-key, with a thirty- and fortysomething crowd, and except for the a-little-too-loud music, the place is pretty quiet. People huddle at their tables and chat quietly with cocktails in hand. No one was table-hopping or even gabbing on a cell phone.
The only real complaint I had about the bar is that the space is sort of odd. A cluster of tables rest in front, but no matter where you sit, the actual bar feels far away. Plus with a huge aisle stretched across the middle of the room, it almost looked like the staff had cleared the room for dancing...but no one was. (Even if Weather Mark filled up half its vacant area, there would still be ample space for Cirque du Soleil to perform.)
Also, when there's live music (the house band for most of April and May is the Grilly Brothers), you nearly have join in for a couple of measures on your way to the bathroom due to the placement of the band in the back hallway.
But, unlike many bars, Weather Mark offers specials every darn night of the week, even on weekends. And that, my friends, is smooth sailing.
Know the difference between the bow and the stern and have no one to tell? Check out more specials information at www.weathermarktavern.com. The Weather Mark Tavern is located at 1503 S. Michigan, (312) 588-0230.
Erin Brereton is our resident urban cowgirl on a bi-weekly search for life on the cheap. If you know of a Cheap Thrill, do clue her in.