It takes guts to start a business anytime—not to mention in this economy, in a location with a less-than-hopeful track record. So, I had my fingers crossed for 6 Degrees, housed in the Bucktown address that’s greeted and bid farewell to Darwin’s, Chinaski’s, and Whiskey Road. I swung by a little before 10 p.m. Monday, noting along the way that the nearby Map Room was busting at the seams. Things seemed to be looking up when, about a block before I reached my destination, I passed an exiting patron—either very vivacious or very drunk—who couldn’t say enough about the “wonderful” new bar.
I’m guessing it was the booze talking because, try as I might, I just couldn’t spot the wonder. Six Degrees is a very typical neighborhood bar—tin ceiling, exposed brick, lots of wood—whose attempt at a hook falls flat. The name is a nod to the idea that you can connect yourself to another person in six degrees or less. To that end, framed black and white photos of the staff’s friends pepper the space (even in the bathrooms); you’re supposed to search out connections as you sip, and maybe even win yourself a spot on the wall.
The effect reminded me of my baby sister’s sorority-flavored dorm room: photos of girls in shorts and sweatshirts cuddled on a couch, posses of boys with beers in hand. Mr. Chaser declared the drink I ordered—identified by the bartender as the spot’s mixologist-designed signature cocktail—“sorority punch.” He wasn’t far off: The sweet-sweet-sweet $6 blend of Finlandia Tangerine and Grapefruit, triple sec, and orange and pineapple juices was summery, easy to swig, and even easier to concoct.
The drink left me wishing I had ordered a beer, of which the selection was decent (Bell’s, Half Acre). But with Map Room and The Bluebird within walking distance, pretty-OK beer isn’t enough. While I’d bet on Square Bar hanging in there because Avondale needs it, I don’t see the same kind of bar vacuum a few blocks from Six Corners.
For 6 Degrees’ sake, I hope I’m wrong. The staff was just so friendly—chatting freely with the patrons in an attempt to unravel some of those degrees—and gosh-darn earnest. We tried to slip out while the servers were talking to the bar’s five other customers, but one of the bartenders darted to the door after us, waving and calling out thanks and well wishes—with all the fuzzy warmth of a sorority mom.