Bars Without TVs

The Exchange
(now closed)
1270 North Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 252-9570

The Exchange, The Exchange, what to say about thee? You're on the quiet end of Milwaukee between North and Division, which is nice, plenty of parking. You're also never too packed, which might not be good for your longevity, but is great when one wants to drop in for a cocktail and a seat at the bar late in the evening. Your unassuming exterior and your well tailored doorman are refined, can one ever go wrong with a three piece suit? Your interior, like your doorman, is quite dapper and although your front windows might let in too much light, the rest of your space is a pleasant aura of twilight. Romantic and intimate yet not so dark as to render the menu illegible, and a lovely menu it is. Your barmen are as eager to concoct one of your house recipes as they are something a little more off the cuff. And although you favor your cocktail endeavors you also have a graceful wine list, a few beers on tap, and a small medley of bottled brews in your refrigerators. Your bar, situated against the south-east wall is clean and simple, stocked with fine spirits and lined with modern bar stools. Across from your bar low tables and boothy seating accommodate your eclectic clientele. In the rear of your space your DJ booth is always captivated by an able tradesman charming your constituency with a phonic variety of melodic benevolence, hipter hits, and fan favorites. And of course one would be remiss to neglect to mention the charisma of your ladies lavatory, a welcome reprieve from the routine. The Exchange, you are a diamond in the rough, ideal for a quiet conversation or a sinful and discreet cocktail.

Posted January 17, 2011 by Cameron


4352 N. Leavitt
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 463-0396

Deftly hiding next to a hulking, loathsome sports bar, this refined oasis provides refuge from the offensive HD spilling out of the windows next door, and has somehow managed to avoid diluting its classy clientele despite the high profile of its new location. Other than the brightly lit outdoor seating in front, only a small frosting on the glass door tips off would be patrons to the entrance. Transition from the outdoors is unnoticeable with floor to ceiling sliding glass doors spanning the entire street-side wall. Tiny Lounge is decorated in simple, earthy tones. Long, lightly hued horizontal lines protrude intermittently from the walls and contrast with the dark gravitational tones of the tables, booths and floor. The light-colored bar, running along much of the north wall and accompanied by modern beige stools, emphasizes the warmth of the space. Across from the bar, tall dark tables and bright chrome stools balk in contrast to the mellow tones of the walls and bar. Further into the space, tall tables descend into low tables and eventually into dark booths lit solely by the flickering candles littered throughout the room. West of the bar is a niche carved out by a tall table and low couch for more private imbibing. The cocktail menu is straightforward, refreshing and creative, a collaboration by three or four insiders from the original location, when the space was tinier, maybe a little noisier, and the Brown Line ran above. Avoiding the cocktail menu would be a mistake. The dozen or so beers on tap will meet most beer drinkers' criteria, if not the diverse bottle beer selection topping 80 unique varieties. The area behind the bar looks lifted right out of an architectural publication. Both typical and unusual fine spirits stand in formation on the bar shelves, framed by light and spaced uniformly, and the back bar remains free of the typical clutter found in similar establishments. Aural entertainment provided by an unknown source was upbeat, indy dance pop, electronica and hip pop all preserving the sophisticated yet mellow temperament of the room. The tunes, light and tones make for a very pleasant atmosphere to take in a relaxing cocktail or exotic barley pop.

Posted November 17, 2010 by Cameron


5148 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60640
(773) 334-9851

Packed. This place is always jumping, even with its multiple rooms and levels. Not jumping in a bad way though. No Jager-bombs or shot girls. Not even a lot of standees, just a lot of people looking for a seat and a distinguished beverage. Big and consistently buzzing, the front room of Hopleaf is very saloonesque. A big hulking mass of a bar dominates the south end of the room, low tables occupy the middle, and the north wall is lined with booths all made up of the same dark stained rough wood. The bar is stacked with taps; over 30 varieties of Belgian, Belgian-style and craft brews are available straight from the barrel. If for some reason nothing on tap piques your interest, Hopleaf stocks over 250 types of bottled beer, many displayed on the glass shelves to the left of the bar. In the off chance you have beer allergy, fine spirits and wine are, of course, available. The back room is lighter and with a high ceiling and exposed brick is almost airy. Modern furnishings and an industrial ambiance give the space a much different feel from the bar room however it is reserved for diners until the kitchen closes. On the weekend, head upstairs for more rooms to enjoy. On the second floor make a slight detour toward the back room and check out the cozy loft space holding court above the main dining area. Heading back toward the street, directly above the main bar is a comfortable space with a small bar nook on the north wall. A large chalkboard posted beside the small bar counter proclaims which of the hundreds of beers are immediately available. In addition, the walls, though also baring their brick, are plastered with new and vintage beer signs giving the space a much different feel than the dining room. Bright neon signs shining out the upstairs windows at surrounding Andersonville lighten up the tables and booth seating keeping the space light and friendly.

Posted October 23, 2010 by Cameron


2149 South Halsted Street
Chicago, Illinois 60608
(312) 948-5275

On a humble industrial corner in southwest Pilsen stands a structure that the evils of television will never spoil. A haughty claim, though once inside the evidence is indisputable. The cavernous interior is an uncommon blend of spacious and airy or dark and dusty. Decor is an intermingling of kitch and antique. The ancient bar runs along much of the north wall and only need stock the basic spirits for the artists, hipsters, blue collar southsiders and general eclectics that warm the bar stools. Beer selection is a little more extensive with about 10 taps and assorted bottles varying from the wonted PBR to domestic micros and small batch brews. Prices are affordable too, $4.50 will buy nearly everything on the beer list and a PBR and a shot of Malort is only $5. Across from the bar are some small bar tables and a row of booths against the wall. at the front of the room is a retro living room scene setup on a low stage which is used for the occasional rock show. in the rear of the room is more bar tables and half a dozen vintage easy chairs paired around low tables. A pinball machine juts out from the south wall separating the front of the bar to the rear and an old photo booth in the back sums up this cultural epicenter of the hipster condition.

Posted October 12, 2010 by Cameron


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