Game Theory

A new happy-hour spot in River North bets on the upscale-sports-lounge trend


A couple of years ago if you had asked any nightlife enthusiast what was missing in Chicago’s scene, the response was invariably “a nice place to watch sports.” (I should know; I asked around.) These days, it’s hard to walk two blocks without stumbling into an “upscale sports lounge”: that new breed of women-friendlier sports bar with cushy décor, cocktails, and countless TVs (see “5 Bars That Maximize March Madness,” far right).

Theory, a new addition to the River North fray, has the formula down like clockwork. “We built a bar around comfort,” says co-owner Joel Sorinsky, 26, a former manager at Joe’s on Weed Street. Along with his partner and executive chef Brian Merel, 27, he’s aiming to make Theory feel just like home, only nicer; think channel surfing at cozy booths outfitted with plasmas. Last occupied by the restaurant Kevin, the space is now awash in soothing blue-gray tones that serve as a foil to the

elbow-to-elbow happy-hour crowd and the high-energy games on 20 TVs. All 26 tables were filled during our visit on a recent Friday night, but Sorinsky sat our group of eight girls in a backroom available for private parties. We dined on pub grub from the comfort of an oversize gray couch while reclining on pillows, with three flat screens tuned to games in the background and Top 40 music piped in at our request. As the night wore on and the music got louder, Sorinsky hopped into the DJ booth. “I’ve deejayed my whole life,” he says. “I learned the biz by seeing it from the booth.”

So, what’s the theory behind Theory? “It’s the one word that makes you think,” Sorinsky says. “It means something different to everyone.” Then our theory is this: If you don’t want to watch the game in the comfort of your own home, head to Theory. The TVs are probably swankier, even if the drinks ($7 to $12 for cocktails, $5 to $10 for beer) are more expensive.

GO: Theory 9 W. Hubbard St.


Photography: Chris Guillen



5 years ago
Posted by sendyourmind

Booze: Great selection, but priced a little higher than the neighbors.
Food: Chili and sweet tater fries have it...avoid the veggie sandwich which is obviously stocked but rarely served

Music: HUGE MISS. This bar has an opportunity to differentiate itself from the stereo-typical bars in the neighborhood and play true Chicago house/lounge music. Stubbornly, management insists on playing worn-out, washed-up 90s hip-hop and disturbing "mash-ups" at a blaring volume.

Bottom line, I used to bring friends and clients in 3x a week at tickets over $100. We didn't get our change in music even for one night, and now we're looking for the next bar owner who can break the River North mold. Bucktown here we come.

Submit your comment