Three Dots and a Dash Is a Fantastic Back Alley Tiki Bar

The drinks are so delicious. The place is so strange and beautiful. Honestly, this is one bar that’s worth the wait to get inside.

Paul McGee makes a Bunny’s Banana Daiquiri (left), and a Jet Pilot (right)   Photography: Anna Knott

The name of this lounge is also the name of an obscure cocktail created by tiki legend Don the Beachcomber to celebrate the end of World War II. But it has taken on new meanings for this generation of Chicagoans—waiting in line, for one.

Masterminded by Paul McGee (Whistler) and the Lettuce Entertain You crew, the River North bar is so popular that if you venture over after work, you’ll likely get stuck with the masses outside near the torch-lit back-alley entrance. Those eventually granted entry to the subterranean hideaway will find eight classics—from the bar’s eponymous drink to a mai tai—along with eight modern creations and four shareable offerings.

From the classics, the potent Jet Pilot commingles three rums, lime juice, cinnamon, grapefruit, the spicy-sweet syrup Falernum, absinthe, and bitters. It is best sipped slowly and soaked up by a plateful of delicious slideresque pork belly buns. Dreamy reggae and lounge tunes sweep away any last lingering workday memories.

Or perhaps you’re up for an early visit to kick off a weekend night of boozing. If so, you will most likely never make it to another bar. Look to the Aloha, Mexico, one of the menu’s rare rumless drinks, which features tequila, genever, pineapple juice, mint, tamarind juice, and spicy bitters. It’s a smooth, not-too-sweet elixir that tastes even better between bites of crispy coconut shrimp—and trumps a watered-down drink at any sceney club.

And if your evening calls for a nightcap, the Painkiller No. 3, a Paul McGee original made from rum, coconut liqueur, passion fruit purée, pineapple juice, and a hint of cream, is the ticket to a tropical sweet fix. Or sip Bunny’s Banana Daiquiri, a frozen mélange of rums, coconut liqueur, banana, lime, and nutmeg, while sinking into the cushy leather booth, relaxed and—Oh, who are you kidding? You’re not going to score a booth. 435 N. Clark St., 312-610-4220.

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