Patrons sip cocktails in the over-sized booths at Square one (Lenny Gilmore )
1400 S. Michigan Ave. 312-786-1750
Rating: 3 (out of four) Off to a good start
The scene: This South Loop bar sits on a particularly busy stretch of Michigan Avenue, with fellow newcomers City Tavern, Waffles and Alain's all steps away. The bar is sleek without being too stuffy, and on the Sunday evening I visited, neighborhood couples soaking up the last hours of the weekend occupied the sidewalk seating outside and a few tables inside.
The shtick: Enter through the door on Michigan Avenue and you'll be greeted by a set of soda fountain-like contraptions, but with wine bottles rather than cola syrup. These self-serve machines dispense vino by the "taste," half glass or full glass. You order using an ATM-like swipe card that records your charges to pay at the end of the night. My friend and I opted to order by the glass ($8-$12) from our server rather than trek back and forth to the gadgets, but I could see how it might come in handy when the bar's slammed. Shouts to the first person who gets tipsy and mixes all the different "taste" options, graveyard soda-style. The menu is anything but wine-focused, though, with plenty of cocktail and beer options. I'd come back for the Le Chiffre ($11) a refreshingly bubbly mix of botanical vodka, yellow chartreuse, lavender and sparkling rose.
Do ... expect to debate seating options. The sidewalk patio has people-watching potential, but inside, there's a curtain-lined jumbo screen high above the bar. The screening of "The Princess Bride" may not have had sound, but it still lent a retro drive-in theater vibe.
Don't ... bother with the food. The menu features meat and cheese plates, salads, almonds and olives, but with tiny tables that barely fit more than drinks (plus a server who didn't bother to explain which cheese was which), it feels like an afterthought. They might be better off setting out bowls of nuts and olives and nixing the food menu altogether.
Bottom line: If you're looking for a new spot to sip in the South Loop, put this on your list to try—especially while the sidewalk patio is still open. If you keep in mind that it's a bar and not a spot to grab a bite to eat, you'll be set.
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