Once in a Belgian-style blue moon, a nightspot emerges that sets a new benchmark in local beer drinking. We’re not talking about a Hop Leaf–caliber beer list or the house-brewed pints you’ll find at Piece. We’re talking quantity, now on tap at River North’s Bull & Bear.

In the year of the upscale sports bar, Bull & Bear is shooting to be named MVP. Its game-winning basket? Five of the nine booths come equipped with two taps apiece, from which barflies can pull their own pints. Patrons reserve a booth according to preference (Bud, 312, Stella, Bass, Hoegaarden), and a waitress activates the system, which tracks pours, at 30 to 40 cents an ounce, on an LCD monitor built into the table. The pour-drink-repeat cycle continues until guests get their fill or waitresses cut them off, whichever comes first.

It’s a clever way to drink (and drink) for such an ill-named venue: Back when the bar was first slated to open, almost a year prior to its January 2009 launch, christening a nightspot after the stock market didn’t seem like the worst idea since high-risk loans. The owners—Luke Stoioff, David Rekhson, and Brandon Zisman, the same team behind Stone Lotus—remain undeterred. “It’s a sports bar and grill and a vantage point,” Stoioff says of the many TVs and stock tickers—not to mention the good-looking crowd.

Indeed, there’s not a bad seat in the house, if you’re lucky enough to score one. We went for the dinner rush and munched on organic buffalo wings and turkey-chili nachos ($9-$16) courtesy of the chef, David Blonsky, 28, a Quartino vet. Later in the evenings, a DJ spins rock and hip-hop over a club-quality sound system.

If this slightly grown-up take on the college kegger sounds too mature, fear not: Stoioff says an upscale “yet tacky” pub in River North is next. Our livers can hardly wait.

GO: Bull & Bear
431 N. Wells St.; bullbearbar.com


Photography: Chris Guillen