A Guide to the Quintessential Chicago Wine Bar (and places that merit a smellalizer test)

When I’m on a first date, particularly of the interweb varietal, I cannot bear the process of waiting for the server to bring the bill. It seems every time I step out and food is consumed, food or beverage arrives promptly, but the bill? That’s the time Ned or Stacey (why am I making oblique Thomas Haden Church references?) has chatted up their 17 coworkers or wiped up their 90th table,  the point at which, even on a good date, one can’t help but note the lag in service, the diminished momentum of conversation, and the sound of street lamps.

That’s why the wine bar should be the first date of preference. Appropriate mood lighting abounds, as well as the brief, painless service interchange. AND on top of that, there isn’t that residual guilt of, “dammit, I ordered the salad AND entree, i should at  least kiss the date in question on the mouth. Maybe even some tongue?” 

Here is a list in order, of the top and middling contenders for Chicago wine bars:

West Loop: Tasting Room

 Tasting Room epitomizes low-key class. Candles and rooms decorated in primarily brown tones  create a warm, welcoming atmosphere, and on a weeknight it’s far from impossible to get a skyline view in one of their many window seats. The wine menu is overwhelming, and at times, admittedly I’ve had trouble getting the server to nail my wine craving, if you say the words “fruity” “textured” or “smooth” chances are they’ll approximate your taste, and if cautious, a diner can always ask for a sample. Parking is fairly easy (again I’m focusing on weeknights). However, if you live more than a hop from the West loop, a cab can become an added expense, and they are closeish  to one of the ashland El stops, but the station would be too seedy for a lone gal to use at night. The menu might be too fussy for my personal tastes, but they do serve chocolate fondue, which has become a Nessie type rarity on chicago menus. This place really does fall under the You Can’t Go Wrong category, assuming you live within cab range, or have the discipline to Stop at One.

Wicker Park: Bin Wine Cafe

La Deee Da. I do know Enis, one of the hosts who works at Bin Wine Cafe. He is pleasingly flirtatious when I run into him on his way home or picking up menus at Kinkos. That’s why it irks me to say Laa Deee Da, re: the restaurant in which he works. first of all, the lighting, and loud clinking noises, ouch. I need to take an Excedrin when walking in there. Are they attempting a Fast Food ambiance at Foodie prices? I did dine there recently with a friend and found the food uneven. The bruschetta style dish was pastey, salmon inedible, but beet salad fresh and springy. Our waitress was a doll, but I cannot recount how many times the servers have been unresponsive and slightly passive aggressive. I wouldn’t call it a date place unless one can snag a seat in the dimmer front, but then you and your date are  contending with the Wicker Park types who didn’t get enough attention as children and compensate with unmuffled motorcycle engines or barking laughs. While some of the dishes win win win, I wouldn’t make this a go to wine bar. It’s really just a badly lit, overpriced eatery.

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