Chicago Warms Up With The Best New Bars; From Fancy Fireplace Inns to Top Neighborhood Hangs

In order to get to 1914 (3525 N. Clark St., 773-472-0900), the “speakeasy” lounge adjacent to boisterous sports bar Red Ivy, you have to enter a “secret” passageway leading to the rear. Inside, the room bursts with color (red velvet!) and the fireplace illuminates the space. You’ll find a nice vintage vibe, but they’re playing nothing but contemporary music here. Added Bonus: Bartenders pour classic cocktails in tiny teacups.

You could easily plan a pub crawl along the Chicago Avenue strip in Ukrainian Village, with all the trendy bars that have opened there in recent years, including Five Star Bar & Grill, High Dive and Relax. Add Bar DeVille (701 N. Damen Ave., 312-929-2349) to the list as the latest neighborhood thrill—even though it’s not actually on the popular nightlife radar. Owned by Matt Eisler, who earned his nightlife cred for opening hipster rock bars Empire Liquors and Angels & Kings (also owned by Fallout Boy’s Pete Wentz), Bar DeVille is more toned down than its predecessors, yet cool nevertheless. Think Danny’s, the long-time Bucktown “apartment lounge,” as it has that warm, lived-in vibe, especially in the back booths of the bar. Added Bonus: The corner dive used to be a men’s-only bar frequented by working-class Mexicans.

Several spirits shops sprung up in 2008, yet Drinks Over Dearborn (650 N. Dearborn St., 312-337-9463) stood apart from the competition for its unique tasting lounge overlooking bustling Dearborn Street. Guests can participate in weekly classes in the Boozehound Classroom ranging from “sake 101” to “intro to Boudreauxs” and then grab a bottle from the boutique to go or enjoy on the premises. Added Bonus: Sample offbeat and rare specialty beer, wine or spirits in the Rare & Luxurious Room.

Wicker Park newbie Edge (1700 W. Division St., 773-227-3100) is along the strip that’s also home to sports-oriented Fifty-50, Angels & Mariachis and Boundary, but thankfully it offers a chilled-out vibe for when you want to avoid the scene. Slip right into the dark, wood-accented digs for warm coffee cocktails and ostrich sliders. Added Bonus: Edge is somewhat hidden from the bustling Division Street strip, therefore making it a bit off the beaten path.

The same people behind Northside in Bucktown duplicate its success with Logan Bar & Grill (2232 N. California Ave., 773-252-1110). And by duplicate, we mean right down to the last detail. The spacious sports bar and restaurant offers decent pub grub, multiple flat screens to watch the games and a downscaled neighborhood crowd. Added Bonus: Heated outdoor section is open yearround.

Here’s another Ukrainian Village venue that’s a popular draw in the area. Old Oak Tap (2109 W. Chicago Ave., 773-772-0406) boasts an enviable beer list and menu filled with hearty selections of affordable comfort fare, from burgers to brunch. Patrons come to watch the games on weekends, or hang out in the lounge near the fireplace as deejays spin rock, hip-hop and alt beats. Added Bonus: When it’s too crowded on the first floor, head upstairs for semi-private seating with another fireplace, cushy sofas, another bar and plasma TV.

Seems like the guys behind avec, Blackbird, Sonotheque and The Violet Hour can do no wrong. Publican (845 W. Fulton Market, 312-733-9555) is their latest gem in the cutting-edge Warehouse District, and this one puts a spotlight on suds, seafood and swine. And even though it has that Old World, communal atmosphere of spacious tables, reclaimed wood and shareable dishes, don’t you dare call it a gastropub. Added Bonus: The pared-down bar menu includes skinny frites (with house-made mayo) and gourmet seasoned pork rinds.

There’s so much to enjoy about Rebar (401 N. Wabash Ave., 312-588-8000), the stylish, mezzanine-level lounge in the Trump Hotel, including the spectacular view of the Mag Mile if you snag those sweet seats at the windows. But what makes it a prime-time destination is the new Warm Winter Punch Bowl that updates the retro refreshment for contemporary cocktail culture. It’s served tableside in a heated crock and filled with brandy, red wine, cinnamon sticks, cloves, oranges and cognac-marinated cherries. Added Bonus: The tiny, semi-VIP front room can be yours at no additional charge, which is great when you’re entertaining a group of friends.

If schmoozing with celebrities and Chicago’s A-Listers is your thing, then Stay (111 W. Erie St., 312-475-0816) is where you need to be. The after-hours spot is an offshoot of Manor—which is located around the corner—but the entrance is hidden behind old concert posters. The top floor bar feels like someone’s welcoming loft party, but this one isn’t going all night. Added Bonus: No bottle service requirement, which is a hard thing to come by in nightclubs in this area of town.

The firepit. The deejay cranking out old and new jams. And how about those female servers slinking around in Barbarella-inspired black catsuits? Located on the penthouse level of the dana hotel, Vertigo Sky Lounge (2 W Erie St., 312-202-6060) is the new hot spot for young single professionals. Added Bonus: Those same servers shaking up specialty cocktails tableside from a mobile martini bar.

What was old is new again in the case of Trader Vic’s (1030 N. State St., 312-642-6500), which settles into its new home in the Gold Coast this winter. Now, is there any better way to stave off the deep freeze outside than to pretend that you’re in Hawaii? The bar offers all the kitschy trappings popular at the chain, including poo-poo platters, Mai Tai cocktails, 1950s music and a Polynesian setting. Added Bonus: Pair those potent cocktails with maki rolls, which are new to the menu.