OPINION | BOTTLE SHOTS: Chicago restaurants offer an array of wine choices

1 month ago The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

With an easy direct flight from Little Rock, Chicago has made its way into my regular rotation of cities to visit. It was one of my last trips before the global pandemic, my first trip after the world reopened, and by the time 2023 comes to a close, I'll have been there twice, if not three times. Here are some of the places I can't wait to visit again.

Moonflower and Nightshade

A more recent addition to Chicago's beverage scene, Moonflower is a bar with a decidedly botanical bent. From a plant-filled interior to a lineup of cocktails that show off fruited and flowering ingredients — this is a standout gem on the city's north side. Also worth checking out is Nightshade, its moodier sister bar. The space is similarly decorated but with a cozier, more seductive vibe. A range of fluffy shaved ice cocktails is a highlight, and the pineapple Boulevardier is a personal favorite. (moonflowerbar.com)

Pops for Champagne

It's a Champagne bar. What more do you need to know? Just a few blocks from Michigan Avenue, this joint is known for its extensive list of Champagne and is practically a Chicago institution — it opened all the way back in 1982. I especially recommend a visit on Mondays when their staff of wine experts pop open special magnum-size bottles for guests to enjoy. (popsforchampagne.com)


If my recommendation isn't enough, surely the Michelin star this restaurant earned should do the trick. The menu here focuses on the cuisine of Portugal and Galicia (that little chunk of Spain north of Portugal), so expect lots of seafood and Atlantic-inspired flavors. The wine list, drawing directly from Portuguese and Spanish influence, is full of well-priced gems that will transport you to the Iberian peninsula. (portochicago.com)


If one Michelin star isn't enough, Smyth is my favorite of Chicago's two-star restaurants. The restaurant was inspired by the five years husband-and-wife owners John and Karen Shields spent cooking together in rural Virginia. Look for seasonal ingredients and fun experiments with pickling and curing. If a visit is out of your budget, visit the Loyalist, a more casual sister space located just below Smyth's main dining room. (smythandtheloyalist.com)

Three Dots and a Dash

I love nothing on Earth more than a commitment to a theme, especially when that theme is "retro disco Polynesian paradise cave of wonders." From the shell and sea urchin-shaped cocktail glasses to the wall of skulls guests descend beneath as they enter the main dining room, every aspect of the bar works to transport you to an intergalactic beach hut where the music thumbs and the drinks are stiffer than the Razorbacks' defense. (threedotschicago.com)

Webster's Wine Bar

Since it opened in 1994, Webster's has been slinging great wine in Chicago's north side (first in Lincoln Park, now in the Logan Square neighborhood). Its offerings skew toward the low-intervention and natural production styles, frequently showcasing smaller, family-owned producers from oft-overlooked regions. (websterwinebar.com)

As always, you can see what I'm drinking on Instagram at @sethebarlow and send your wine questions and quibbles to [email protected]

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