As patios become a distant memory and the reality of colder winter months settles in across Chicago, it’s time to start shifting focus to the important things: warm cocktails and fireplaces. ’Tis the season for indoor comforts, and the best defense against wind chill is mulled wine sipped fireside. Here are 11 of the coziest places to hole up this season, and what to eat and drink while there.
Upstairs at The Gwen
Chicagoans love rooftop patios so much that some bars and restaurants keep their decks open year-round. Upstairs at The Gwen extends the season of its gorgeous patio with the aid of fireplaces and a menu of hot cocktails, like buttered rum and mulled wine. New this year is a curling rink, for an extra way to keep the blood pumping.
512 N. Rush St.; 312-645-1500
RM Champagne Salon
Nestled down a cobblestone alley in the West Loop, RM Champagne Salon is a cozy retreat any time of year, but there’s something particularly magical about this Parisian parlor in the wintertime. Maybe it's the antique fireplace, brick walls, vintage tassels on the ceiling and classic French comfort food, like steak frites, duck fillets, macaroni gratin and seafood platters. Let the red wine flow, sit by the fire, dunk some grilled country bread into mussels broth, and call it a night.
116. N. Green St.; 312-243-1199
The Ladies’ Room
Hidden away inside Fat Rice, The Ladies’ Room cocktail lounge is the quintessential cozy nook. The dimly lit, red-hued space is reminiscent of a secret Chinese drinking parlor, and it offers some of the most inventive cocktails in Chicago. For winter, they include a shareable flaming drink for two. The Thunderdome arrives in an oversized copper mug, made with two kinds of rum, allspice dram, housemade bay rum, leaf liqueur, ginger beer, jackfruit and lime. It’s like a Dark and Stormy with added tropical notes and more, well, fire.
2957 W. Diversey Ave.; 773-661-9170
While some cocktail bars get clamorous and uncomfortable, the back room at Scofflaw, around the corner from the front bar, is exceptionally inviting. It feels like a mansion parlor, outfitted with plush couches, lounge chairs and a fireplace. The vibe is relaxed, service is friendly, drinks are among the best in Logan Square, and the food surpasses expectations.
3201 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-252-9700
El Che Bar
For fireside dining with some serious badassery, head to this Argentine-accented spot, which brings the heat in more ways than one. The restaurant is anchored by a 12-foot wood-fired hearth, on which chef John Manion and co. cook much of their menu. The grill was a collaborative effort with local metalworker Bobby Middleton of Wayward Machine Co., known for his work on custom Harley Davidson motorcycles. Manion ignites the grill each night with a flamethrower. For the best seat, head to the intimate chef’s counter, which is as close as you can get to the hearth without being on fire. Sip a glass of Argentine Malbec or a caramelized old fashioned and enjoy the show.
845 W. Washington Blvd.; 312-265-1130
Owen & Engine
Head upstairs to one of the coziest dining spaces in town. The second-floor room has a Victorian feel, with Oriental rugs, Damask wallpaper and lounge chairs positioned by a fireplace. It’s even better when you’re enjoying British bites like Scotch eggs and fish 'n' chips, along with cocktails, stouts and ciders. Or order a pot of tea, which comes with baked-to-order scones, butter and seasonal jam.
2700 N. Western Ave.; 773-235-2930
Sable Kitchen & Bar
Season after season, this River North staple is at the cutting-edge of cocktail ingenuity, and Mike Jones’ latest batch is no exception. In addition to imaginative ingredients and menu additions like coffee ice cubes and offbeat boilermakers, Jones brings the fire right to your table with large-format punches set aflame. These include The Colchester (pictured), a tropical combo of rum, creme de cacao, Kalani coconut rum liqueur, Green Chartreuse, spiced pineapple syrup, pineapple juice, lime juice and Underberg, a bitter German digestif. It’s all lit on fire and adorned with tiki umbrellas and mermaids. Then there are hot cocktails like the Flannel Junkie, a potent blend of Averna, Rhine Hall Fernet, creme de cacao, cinnamon syrup, steamed cream, angostura bitters, chocolate bitters and steamed cappuccino, all poured into a tea cup and topped with shaved chocolate.
505 N. State St.; 312-755-9704
During shopping stints along Michigan Avenue, stop off at Beacon Tavern for a warm-up by the fireplace with hot cocktails from head bartender Alex Schmaling. Current options are the Puebla Hot Cocoa, featuring bittersweet chocolate, spices and Ancho Reyes liqueur, and a perfectly boozy mulled cider, which cranks things up by infusing the cider with sherry, brandy and rum, plus cinnamon.
405 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-955-4226
Moody Tongue Taproom
It’s not often a brewery feels warm and cozy, but with its midcentury decor, fireplace and walls of books, Moody Tongue’s taproom is special. The winter offerings are comforting as well. The caramelized chocolate churro porter is dessert in a glass, taken to the next level when paired with a whopping slice of German chocolate cake (the only food on the menu besides oysters).
2136 S. Peoria St.; 312-600-5111
The latest crop of hot cocktails at perpetually comfy Bohemian House is the best yet. Poured tableside from teapots, which stay at your table so you can continue refilling your cups, the drinks include Czech mulled wine steeped with becherovka, an herbaceous European digestif, plus mezcal and toasty spices. Winter in Salzburg features a sprig of rosemary torched tableside and added to apple cider, dark rum, elderflower, simple syrup and lemon.
11 W. Illinois St.; 312-955-0439
Park & Field
You’ll find fireplaces both inside and out at this retro sports-inspired bar and restaurant on the western fringes of Logan Square. The most coveted seats are on the sprawling patio, even in winter. This is thanks to fire pits, DIY s’mores kits and hot cocktails like the Playoff Board, which stirs maple and cinnamon into apple cider and bourbon, and the Mint Condition, 1st Edition, which blends Basil Hayden’s whiskey, creme de menthe, St. Brendan’s Irish cream liqueur and La Colombe coffee.
3509 W. Fullerton Ave.; 765-426-6657