It's a testament to the lack of upscale, Korean-themed drinking spots in the city—and people's desire for such a place—that Nara Lounge can exist, and thrive, on West Randolph Street without a single sign demarcating its existence. Located upstairs from Meiji
, with the entrance discreetly tucked between Meiji and Blackbird
, the bar offers a decidedly Korean drinking experience, even if you know you are smack dab in the middle of Chicago's West Loop.
The party gets started late at Nara, so if you show up before 11 p.m. and the place feels a bit sleepy, don't be surprised. The long, dark tables are made for larger groups, who opt for bottle service (but be warned that it's pricey—upwards of $400 for certain bottles) or pitchers of fruity soju at $17 a pop. This Korean liquor is served with various fruit juices and then drunk from what look like shot glasses. It can also be ordered mixed with "yogurt," which was quickly explained to be "not like American yogurt—like Japanese yogurt." Either way it tasted sort of like alcoholic Sprite, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. A bar offers the standard assortment of martinis and mixed drinks for $11 a pop. The waitresses, who all wear short shorts, are attentive, and keep a steady stream of Korean Chex Mix-esque munchies coming to the table.
Average cost: $31+
Centerstage Reviewer: Laura Oppenheimer