As soon as the temperature tops 65, I become obsessed with rosé. So, after polishing off an 80-degree Wednesday in the Loop, all I wanted was a dry, crisp glass. I pinned my hopes on Saluté, the new wine bar that opened last Thursday in the Gold Coast, and was disappointed: nary a glass or a bottle on the wine list. Luckily, I found a replacement to turn my pout into a happy pucker.
From the small but thoughtful cocktail menu, the Il Rubino: an $8 blend of grapefruit vodka, Campari, and ruby red grapefruit juice that was tart and refreshing (other intriguing options included the Caprese Martini, made with basil-infused vodka and a mozzarella-stuffed cherry tomato, and the Lavender Limonata). The drinks were romantic and bright and seemed more accessible, at least at first glance, than the wine list, a behemoth of Italian pours available mostly by the bottle. I was put off by the slim selection of only three whites by the glass—until it sunk in that Saluté, housed in the bottom floor of a stately Victorian, is a place to linger, deliciously, over a bottle.
The stone patio, located just below sidewalk level, is pleasantly lazy in an almost European way—certainly not in a Michigan Avenue way, although the bar sits steps from the hot and sweaty tourist mess. Pretty much everything about Saluté supports that easy vibe, from the house-made cellos, or Italian liqueurs (Meyer lemon and kumquat, among other flavors), to the attentive and unrushed service to the $25 bottles—yes, bottles—of wine. And in a slam to French fry–dishing bars citywide, the menu comes stacked with nibbles like tomato-artichoke bruschetta and beetroot hummus. Add in the fact that the bar’s interior, outfitted with a window seat, is as suitable for winter as the petite patio is for summer, and you’ve got a happy hour find. Not a place I’d seek out, exactly, but one I’d be pleased to end up at after work, rosé or no.
On deck this weekend: The rosé quest continues. Here’s hoping Humboldt Park’s much-anticipated Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar obliges. Considering its pedigree—featuring alums of Webster’s Wine Bar, Hot Chocolate, Goose Island, and Pop’s for Champagne—things are looking good. If bottle service trumps bottles of wine in your book, check out the West Loop club Theatro (858 W. Lake, 312-455-8345), due to open tomorrow in the former Reserve space; check Seen on the Scene Monday for photos. And from Joseph Russo—who had a hand in Sinibar, Funky Buddha, and Thyme—comes The Shrine, a live-music-venue-slash-upscale-lounge set for a soft opening Friday in the South Loop.