Restaurants with great bar snacks
The best seats are at the bar.
Acadia Though chef-owner Ryan McCaskey cites summers spent in Maine as his inspiration for this restaurant, the decor here is not one of fishing lures and seascapes. It’s a study in rich whites, a rare exercise in the restaurant as a space of tranquility and elegance. Flashes of inspiration light up the menu, but the overall focus is on food that is rich and satisfying rather than revolutionary. If a full meal isn’t in the cards, dabble in the interesting wine list and McCaskey’s masterful charcuterie in the front bar room. 1639 S Wabash Ave (312-360-9500). Dinner (closed Mon, Tue). Average bar snack: $10.
BIN 36 This institution in the House of Blues complex gives wine top billing. Pair any of the 50 wines by the glass with entrées like wild-mushroom streudel, seared ahi tuna or a grilled New York strip. Or make a meal out of the wine snacks—lamb meatballs, cripsy arancini, truffled deviled eggs. Desserts are good, too, but you’ll probably never taste them: When you’re faced with one of the best cheese programs in the city, it’s always wisest to end with a cheddar flight. 339 N Dearborn St (312-755-9463). Breakfast, brunch (Sat, Sun), lunch, dinner. Average bar snack: $9.
Longman & Eagle There will be strategically scruffed dudes, waifish women in grandma sweaters, flannel as far as the eye can see. This place is owned in part by the Empty Bottle guys, after all. But these are hipsters who know hospitality, a chef (Jared Wentworth) who knows pub grub and the only Michelin-starred restaurant we know of where no one will bat an eye if all you want to do is throw back shots of whiskey and nosh on food (chicken-liver mousse, venison pâté, pretzel with Welsh rarebit) at the bar. 2657 N Kedzie Ave (773-276-7110). Brunch, lunch, dinner. Average bar snack: $9.
Maison Chef Perry Hendrix is an anomaly: a great chef with no ego. At this Lakeshore East brasserie, he focuses on classics—mussels, roast chicken, a juicy bistro burger—and he executes each one with precision. His seafood towers are stocked with sweet shrimp and tender lobster; his “snacks” like soft-cooked eggs with mayonnaise and puffy gourges are delightful; and Erin Mooney’s desserts are simple and satisfying. Seeing a show at the Harris? Stopping here before or after is now mandatory. 330 E Randolph St, suite 300 (312-241-1540). Brunch (Sun), lunch (Mon–Fri), dinner. Average bar snack: $5.
Perennial Virant Perennial Virant (PV for short) lives and dies by chef Paul Virant’s dedication to seasonal ingredients. The seasonal urgency with which he creates some of his dishes may explain why they sometimes disappoint. But for every miss, there’s a phenomenal success, such as a perfect rib eye, pillowy gnocchi and robust housemade sausages. The perfect complement to the outstanding cocktail list: a plate of bar snacks, such as Three Sisters corn nuts and house pickles. 800 N Lincoln Ave (312-981-7070). Brunch (Sat, Sun), dinner. Average bar snack: $11.
Trenchermen Brothers Mike and Pat Sheerin’s dishes are not mere experiments; they’re proven theories of flavor, from the preserved rhubarb and aged duck breast to the cold-smoked sturgeon and malt-powder cream. Their space, a restored bathhouse in Wicker Park, is a place you just want to hang out in, which is perhaps why our favorite seats are at the bar, soaking up Tona Palomino’s deceptively straightforward cocktails with housemade beef jerky, pickle tots and the flawless burger. 2039 W North Ave (773-661-1540). Brunch (Sun), dinner. Average bar snack: $5.