Downtown Drinking: Where To Grab A Glass Of Wine To Ease Your Shopping Blues
Photo by Tim King
The loop. It doesn’t matter why you’re there: visiting family who want to see the tree in Daley Plaza, working late in your downtown office, or, more likely this time of the year, doing your holiday shopping. Any of these scenarios is stressful, and if you’re at that point, probably nothing sounds better than a drink. But the loop can be tricky; it’s not for destination drinkers like the Randolph Street corridor. So if you’re looking for a beverage just a shade finer than a hot mixture out of a boot, then here are a few places we recommend to take the edge off with a great glass of wine while holiday shopping and sightseeing.
The Magnificent Mile is ground zero for holiday insanity. With twinkling lights everywhere, the inescapable glow of the Apple store, and the terrifying elevators inside Water Tower Place, this is probably the most overstimulating of the downtown shopping zones. We figure that if you’re in it, you’re in it, and you should just embrace the crazy. For that, we recommend The Purple Pig. The middle-of-it-all location will keep your visiting in-laws happy, but if you’re a wine lover, the extensive collection of handmade, old world wines—with an especial focus on more obscure Italian and Greek bottlings—gives you plenty of room to play on a street that’s otherwise corporate central. This spot is always buzzing and full, so be prepared to stash your shopping bags and get cozy at a communal table with some strangers. Hey, ‘tis the season.
Are you looking for something a little quieter? Just a few blocks north of the Pig, you’ll find Cru Cafe & Wine Bar, formerly the Gold Coast location of Feast, and before that, well, Cru. It's a bit darker and less clangingly loud than the Pig. With a killer selection of small batch domestic wines, this is where you duck into while everyone else spends their way down Oak Street.
Runner-up for quiet sipping? DiSotto Enoteca.
The Mag Mile might be the real shopping mecca, but it’s hardly Christmas in Chicago without a stop into Marshall Field’s (erm, Macy’s, we guess). And while we love the wine bar in the Walnut Room, we don’t recommend going anywhere near it during “the season” unless you’ve got a serious masochistic streak or a love for those buzzing beepers. If you’re not burned out on crowds and want to rest your feet, The Gage is spacious and loud, but has a killer wine list for a self-described “tavern.” It’s also a great place to sneak away while your friends insist on ice skating across the street in Millennium Park. Save yourself the Icy Hot and grab a glass instead.
Get Outta Dodge
About to lose it with the jingle bells? The "L" can have you out of retail hell in five minutes, tops. Just pick a color: Blue? The MatchBox. (Yes, they’re known for their stiff cocktails, but actually have a great wine selection as well.) Pink/Green? Vera has some of the best wine in the city, and is only a stone’s throw from the loop. Red/Orange? Head south to City Tavern and enjoy the colonial ambiance - far, far away from American Girl Place. But, if you’re desperate, the Place does have wine, too.
By Erin Drain