For weeks I had been driving by The Cedar Hotel (1112 N. State St.; 312-944-1112), giving the crowd the once-over and wondering if the vibe was still as rowdy as in the days of Melvin B’s. When Sunday looked like the last patio-friendly weather we’d have for a while—and even then it was iffy—my friend Kelli and I headed over for a farewell-to-September brew. Unlike the overflow scene I’d witnessed on balmier occasions, about half of the patio tables were open, so we requested one near the sidewalk for optimal gawking. It’s the Gold Coast, after all.
A few normal-looking specimens walked by before we got to the good stuff: cleavage-baring blondes with extensions and designer sunglasses; a guy whizzing past on rollerblades, doing a graceful upper-body dance; cops in shorts pedaling by on bikes; and even a Tony Tag sighting (you know, the shirtless dude with the Ferrari for hire). “Does anyone really take him up on that?” Kelli wondered aloud at the same moment a heavy raindrop landed on my eyelash. We moved under the bar’s awning, where we found ourselves in the midst of an intense Bears-watching session. All eyes were trained on the blaring TVs as we ordered a couple of mini lobster rolls (warm and buttery at $6 a pop) and continued sipping our 24-ounce cocktails. When we’d mentioned beer, our waitress suggested we try one of the bar’s signature drinks, served in extra-large plastic cups. I had the No Tell Lemonade, a sweet, medium-potency concoction involving Skyy passion fruit vodka for $10.
It was a mixed group at the surrounding tables: young nightlife-industry types and a smattering of neighborhood sophisticates. (Next to us, two men delved into a plate of leafy greens. “I think those guys are sharing a salad,” I marveled.) When the raindrops declined to turn into a full-fledged shower, passers-by lowered their umbrellas and leaned over the fence surrounding the patio to catch the final minutes of the game. Minus the sewer stench wafting by at odd intervals—if I were a Gold Cost bar owner, you can bet I’d be on the phone to the city until something more palatable drifted my way—it was all pretty chummy for a rainy Sunday afternoon. But with a small if sleek interior and sidewalk-stalking as its main attraction, will The Cedar Hotel maintain its draw once the chill sets in for real? “We have a few things up our sleeve,” said Lee, the manager on duty, though he refused to cough up any details. Hm, elusive. Hot toddies and binoculars, anyone?
Photograph: Megan Dodge