The scene at Simone’s

Unless you’re looking to nip a fledgling relationship in the bud, Simone’s isn’t the place to take a first date. Stepping into this Pilsen bar is like falling into a Wonkaland built from the remnants—pinball parts, chemistry tables—of decades past. Gazing into a potential paramour’s eyes couldn’t hold a candle.

“We didn’t want to look like some North Side bar,” says Desiree Grant, who, along with her husband and co-owner, Russ, also owns several such bars: Northside in Bucktown, Black Beetle in Humboldt Park, and Streetside and Logan Bar & Grill in Logan Square; their partner in Streetside and Simone’s, Michael Noone, also owns the Bucktown staple Danny’s. For help with Simone’s interior, the trio hired the local design firm AlterEgo Form—“and pretty much gave them carte blanche,” Desiree says. Smart move.

The result is a blend of mass-produced items and custom fabrication: a U-shaped bar made from an old bowling-alley lane, a front room outfitted with seatbelt-backed booths, and a back area with its own bar, dubbed Simone’s Lab, that hosts art exhibits and salon-style lectures. It’s part of the owners’ push to create an events-driven space, but Simone’s real draw is that the bar provides a roomy spot to kick back and work through a well-crafted beer list, from $6 drafts of Bear Republic Racer to $9 bottles of Hitachino White Ale.

And then there are the craft cocktails. The Double Bubble (Grey Goose La Poire, orange juice, and Champagne, with a pop-rock rim; $11) is buzzworthy, as is the Mint Tea, made with green tea vodka ($8). Other pluses: a menu served until close, with veggie-friendly treats such as portobello fries with wasabi mayo, and a summertime sidewalk patio.

So, who can you take to Simone’s? Anyone with a penchant for good conversation over a solid drink—which, on second thought, might make this bar the perfect first-date test.


GO: SIMONE’S 960 W. 18th St.;


Photograph: Chris Guillen