The Chaser (center) enjoys a cicerone-selected brew at Bangers & Lace.
As a creative procrastination measure to avoid making her own New Year’s resolutions for 2011, The Chaser gets the job done for Chicago nightlife.
10: Hire more cicerones. “Cicerone” was a new word for me in 2010. Pronounced sis-uh-ROHN, these “beer sommeliers” are experts at helping drinkers find their next favorite brews. Since poring over a beer list 125 strong is not my idea of fun, I consider having someone on hand to choose for me a major plus. See for yourself: Snag a stool at Bangers & Lace and ask for Ria.
9: No more antlers. If I’ve seen one rack mounted on a brick wall, I’ve seen a thousand. I know, I know: We all want to feel cozy, like we’re clinking glasses in some remote, unaffected-by-Wall-Street hunting lodge. But there are other things you can hang on a wall. Like art. Check out Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar for one of the best rotating exhibits in town. Still cozy, I promise.
8: Take credit. No one—least of all The Chaser—carries more than about $40 in cash at any given time (and, honestly, that’s a stretch). So unless you’re serving $1 mini beers and $3 tacos, a cash-only policy is an inconvenience most drinkers won’t suffer in silence. I’m looking at you, Curio, a place I’d go more often if I could rustle up the currency to pay for the delicious $12 cocktails. And please don’t tell me there’s an ATM located somewhere inside the bar “for my convenience.” A $3 transaction fee is never convenient.
7: Turn it down. Nothing sends me running for the door faster than poorly managed volume control. I love music but I need my eardrums to hear it. One place that gets the balance just right? Conversation-friendly Wang’s (3317 N. Broadway; 773-296-6800) in Boystown.
6: Play more games. I love that you can play Ping-Pong at Happy Village, and I’m still itching to try the new tables at Market. Guthrie’s Tavern is famous for its collection of board games; Mickey’s hosts a winter bags tournament on its enclosed patio; it’s all about Trivia Tuesdays at State; and giant Jenga at River Shannon might be what I miss most about living in Lincoln Park. What game would I like to see in a new neighborhood bar? Connect Four. Yep, you heard me. Connect Four.
5: Always look ahead. One thing I’m eagerly anticipating about the coming-soon River North bar Public House is its policy of facing all cash registers out toward the crowd, so bartenders won’t be standing with their backs turned to anxious would-be drink orderers. It’s a simple idea but one that’s bound to take the stress level down on both sides of the bar. Test-drive the concept when Public House opens in two weeks, and let’s cross our fingers that other new spots take note.
4: Go green. We get it. Meat is awesome. Pork, links, sliders, bacon, burgers—the works. But my arteries are suffering, Chicago bars, and I just can’t get excited about your one grilled chicken sandwich with a pale fruit cup on the side. I’d love it—adore it!—if a few spots would offer one or two truly amazing healthy menu items to go with my Miller Lites. How about, instead of $25 cent wings night, we try $5 salad night? Oh wait, they already have that on Wednesdays at Brownstone, but it’s a BYOLFD (Bring Your Own Low-fat Dressing) situation.
3: Prepare for spring cleaning. I won’t name names, but there are a few bars in Chicago that smell so bad (bathroom-cleaning chemicals + stale beer = worst combo imaginable) I’d be hard-pressed to darken their doors again. I’m tilting my head vaguely in the direction of Wrigleyville when I say this: Powerwasher. Candles. Tear everything out and start over. Whatever you need to do.
2: Install purse hooks. In the bathrooms, under the bar, under the tables, everywhere! It’s the simplest, least expensive customer-service detail you can offer, and your drinkers will thank you for it. One place that recently heeded The Chaser’s request for hooks? D.S. Tequila Co., a Boystown bar that knows how to treat its ladies.
1: Turn off the TV. Enough said.
Photograph: (The Chaser) Robert Compitello