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Now Open: Celeste in River North

By Sarah Freeman
February 4, 2014

Congrats Chicago, you have an astronomy-inspired bar. Yes, astronomy as in constellations, astrological charts and maybe a rogue Galileo sighting. We’re just as confused as you are.

The dual-story, cocktail-focused Celeste opened in River North last night, built into a refurbished 19th century building. (The name is derived from the Latin word meaning “Heavenly.”) Guests enter on the first floor, where an elegant but neighborhood friendly cocktail lounge serves a mix of classic, house and fruit-forward cocktails, as well as a few bottled and draft creations. Upstairs is the dining room (not a tarot reader), adorned with wood floors, mirrored walls and crystal details. The menu is a mix of contemporary American fare and old-school standard dishes along with a more thought out beverage menu. Concoctions are reminiscent of the bar’s namesake, with drink falling into categories called "Full Moon” and “Old Star.” Eventually, the whole celestial concept will come to fruition via a rooftop patio and event space.

One thing Celeste did right is the talented staff. The impressive team behind the bar is made up of Fred Sarkis (Sable) and Sterling Field (Carriage House); Aaron Lirette (Acadia) and TJ Harville (Sofitel) man the kitchen. Did all of these stars align to create one special space or is it just a black hole of booze? Only time, and maybe wishing on a shooting star, will tell if this eclectic concept can succeed.

111 W. Hubbard St.; 312-828-9000

  • The Food

    Contemporary American is the name of the game at this cocktail-focused bar with a limited food menu. Lirette created a selection of small and large plates available in the dining room and bar bites served upstairs. Scallop crudo with anjou pear, pickled baby leeks and moscatel vinegar as well as baby octopus with crispy chickpeas, blood orange, romesco and watermelon radish are available on both floors. Larger plates in the dining room include Jidori chicken with maitake mushrooms, baby turnip, shaved black truffle, foie gras, onion soubise and sherry jus. The sophisticated fare is designed to complement both the cocktail menu as well as the space.

  • The Drinks

    More rare than a meteor shower is finding a $10 cocktail in River North. Good news - Celeste has an entire section of the drink menu dedicated to house specialties for a ten note. Sip on the quintessential Constellation, made with rum, sherry, strawberry and citrus or design a custom cocktail like the Melon Fix: honeydew melon and citrus served with a choice of rum, tequila or gin. For the same price, guests can enjoy any of the bottled and draft cocktails, including the Golden Filigree, made with cognac, rum, bourbon and milk whey. Upstairs, find a more palatable menu of craft cocktails, such as the noteworthy Red Right Hand, made with Sailor Jerry rum, carpano, Campari, cinnamon and citrus, as well as a collection of classics.

  • The Space

    The bar progresses from ground floor to open sky with different levels reminiscent of different eras. The first floor channels the original building, with turn-of-the-century accents such as the metal bar and embossed mirrors. In the back, a distressed grey fireplace draws the eye and the drinker past high-top tables and exposed brick walls. The second floor is all about art deco with taupe curtains, suede booths, marble tabletops and vintage flatware. Glass walls surround the stairwell that connects the first and second floors, and also leads to the soon-to-be-revealed rooftop lounge.

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