One might wonder what to expect from new drinkeries called Chicago Bar and New York Bar, but it appears the owners — who named previous ventures Babcock and Broadway after their respective streets, are simply upping the thematic ante.
I headed out with friends on a weeknight to compare the new Northside bars, only realizing it was Fat Tuesday after spotting a few scattered masks and beads. Ah well, I thought, reminiscing about bygone Mardi Gras revelry in Austin, I have to work tomorrow. We dropped into Chicago first. Located off Stone Oak Parkway, it sits centrally in an established strip center that also houses Stone Oak fixture Copa Wine Bar. I immediately liked the lighting and loungy atmosphere. The interior is characterized by dark wood and brown leather, while scattered lamps on end tables bathe the space in a cozy yellow glow. Tall, rectangular canvases pay homage to the Windy City, with different skyscrapers and city scenes stretching floor to ceiling. The clientele was varied on this Tuesday, but it’s a bar I imagine crowds of young professionals populating during happy hour.
We started the night with a couple of dirty martinis. A friend lusted after a chocolate martini, but the bartender didn’t have the syrup, so he settled on a Smirnoff. The martinis were the perfect mix of vodka and olive juice, but no skewered olives accompanied the drink and we missed them greatly. Our threesome managed to acquire a leather couch and coffee table, just as a bystander gave us a dirty look for rushing to the empty seats. Seating is comfortable and private, arranged in six or seven sections that include leather couches and chairs, rugs, coffee tables, and lamps. The feel reminded me of a study, and the music playing didn’t disrupt our conversation.
In addition to the loung-like seating, about 40 seats belly up to the tall, rectangular bar, and two good-sized plasmas cater to sports fans. Two bartenders easily took care of the moderate crowd, but on a packed weekend, four or five could easily work behind the bar and the spaciousness would facilitate faster drink delivery. Service was good and our tab was $17.50 for the three drinks, about what I expected considering the martinis and upscale atmosphere.
With midnight approaching, we headed for New York — luckily, a mere five minutes from my apartment. Off Redland Road and 281, it’s the only anchor in a developing strip center. Upon entering, the bar is visually striking, with high ceilings accentuating large-scale artwork of the Brooklyn Bridge. There are a few areas with couches and comfy chaises, but the majority of the seating here is at scattered high tables accompanied by the same sturdy wooden chairs found in Chicago. Seats at the wraparound island bar provide a good view of the liquor bottles showcased on a lighted square hub in the center. Wrought-iron light fixtures hang from the ceiling around the bar, giving off a mellow orange glow. We kept our drink orders to vodka tonics, chatting it up with the friendly bartenders since the crowd was more sparse in the Big Apple.
A two-tiered staircase leads to an upstairs loft area which is secluded and more private. The small first tier has a table for two along the railing, but the top level is a loft that overlooks the entire bar. It’s moderately chic, with two huge square tables that hold eight leather-backed seats. This would be a perfect spot to section off as an occasional VIP or semi-private party area.
Both bars are laudable additions to the city’s bar scene, and I imagine their weeknight crowds will grow considerably once Northsiders know they’re there. The bars are upscale and a worthier destination for a night on the town, though the atmosphere requires a bit more effort from the T-shirt and jeans crowd. I snuck in with Converse this week, but I’ve heard that Friday and Saturday nights come with a strict “no sneakers” policy at both bars. Dress code for girls? Rubbish. Maybe I’ll just become a regular.
New York Bar
2838 N. Loop 1604 E., Ste. 105
Hip and trendy, with a crowd dominated by younger singles.
Packed weekend crowds. Collared shirts required, and check your hats at the door.
Landing a seat at the secluded and private upstairs loft area.
19141 Stone Oak Pkwy.
Loungy, upscale take on the Stone Oak scene.
Don’t get carried away; specialty drinks and shots could lead to a whopping tab.
Private, with a comfy selection of couches catering to chatty groups.