Maude about you: Upstairs at Maude’s Liquor Bar
In the weeks following its opening, I visited the new Parisian-style Maude’s Liquor Bar twice with my friend Kate. The first time, we were just two pals dropping big bucks on shrimp cocktails and Whiskey Smashes. The second time, we were on a date.
Actually, it was more of a ménage à trois. I had made a 6:30 p.m. reservation on a Thursday for Kate and me, since we knew the chic West Loop gastropub from the owners of Gilt Bar fills up early. I opted for a high four-top table not far from the downstairs bar—a prime perch with a view of the room and the door—and ordered a Smokey Violet Smash (like an amped-up mint julep, with lots of leafy sprigs and crushed ice; $12). Soon Kate arrived looking well dressed and pretty, which meant she fit right in with the rest of the glossy-haired drinkers pouring in from the cold.
“I have a date after this,” she explained. “A first date, kind of. I need a glass of wine.” She ordered a drink and told the tale: Kate had met Scott the previous weekend at Blue Frog 22. They had talked for hours, and—yada yada yada—tonight they would be having dinner at a to-be-determined location.
“Well, we already have this great table with two extra seats, and the lighting is perfect. Why not ask him to come here?” I suggested.
“Good plan. You can tell me what you think of him,” Kate said, texting furiously.
We worked out the details: Around eight, I’d check my phone for a fake message and bow out; meanwhile, I ordered the garlicky sausage of the day ($11–$12) and some impossibly delicious pommes frites ($6) to split. While watching for Scott, I spied another writer who goes incognito at places like this. She stopped by our table to share an insider tidbit: “I was here late one night last weekend and saw all the cooks from Girl & the Goat,” she said, explaining that staffers from nearby haunts convene at Maude’s second-floor lounge postshift. “They order a round of cheap beer, and the waiter brings over a bottle of whiskey and sets it in the middle of the table. At the end of the night, they just say how many shots they had. It’s on the honor system.” Note: This setup is available to all guests, but if you fantasize about dating a chef, hang out upstairs.
The dashing Scott arrived on cue, took a seat, and began answering my nonstop questions (I’m a reporter; it can be a problem). We all began to relax, and Scott told me that Maude’s—with its subway tiles, whimsical chandeliers, and disheveled hipster bartender—reminded him of New York. Just as I was really warming up to him, I received a bruise-inducing knee jab under the table. Consulting my BlackBerry’s blank screen, I exclaimed: “Oops! I have to go! You guys have fun!”
If the relationship works out, you can bet I’ll take credit for suggesting such a romantic retreat. Payment can be sent in the form of Smokey Violet Smashes to Mademoiselle Amalie at the end of the bar.
840 W. Randolph St.; maudesliquorbar.com
Photograph: Chris Guillen