Dot dot dot: Locals lean in over small-batch wines at Telegraph
On a previous visit, I had pegged Telegraph, the new wine bar in Logan Square, as the neighborhood’s grown-up alternative to whiskey-sipping hipsterdom. And yet, on this Thursday night, I couldn’t decide which look our waitress was going for: Hee Haw chic or “we’re just as cool as Longman & Eagle” defiant. In her gingham shirt, round glasses, and pigtails, she could have hopped a bus to summer camp at any moment, but instead she companionably suggested I try a Panevino red from Sardinia ($11 a glass). I took her recommendation and rejoined a conversation with my four friends, who were clustered around the high communal table in the bar’s west room.
We were starving, and as we nibbled a tartine of cannellini purée and fried squash blossom ($7) that we wished were twice as big, we tried to decide whether to treat Telegraph as our restaurant of the evening or as a predinner wine stop. When one friend spotted an appealing but unequivocally diminutive half chicken ($17) en route to a diner at the other end of the table, our minds were made up: We needed heartier fare. Having a former Avec sous-chef, John Anderes, in the kitchen is surely a boon, but the tab tends to add up quickly for a place that’s been pitching itself as an unintimidating local option.
Apéritifs it was. Fortunately, there are plenty of unusual choices on sommelier Jeremy Quinn’s pared-down and frequently updated list of what he calls “new Old World wines,” most crafted at small European vineyards with an eye toward sustainability. There’s not a traditional pinot noir in the house, but who needs one when you can try a poulsard from the tiny estate of Evelyn and Pascal Clairet in Jura, France ($9 a glass)? My group loved the selection; we just would have liked a bit more of each to embrace. When one friend ordered a 2008 Wimmer-Czerny sparkler from Wagram, Austria ($16), we regarded the vessel it was delivered in—a cross between a martini glass and a wineglass—with suspicion. “It looks cool,” said my friend, peering at the contents. “But how much wine is actually inside?” Telegraph is either prone to miniature portions or we’re victims of appetite creep.
In any case, the space makes a pretty place to ponder such questions. Both of the bar’s side-by-side rooms overlook the square, and the furniture, custom-made in Mexico (where co-owner Tom MacDonald, the man behind Webster’s Wine Bar and The Bluebird, has lived for the past year), is easy on the eyes but hard on the ears once voices start to bounce off the hard surfaces. Ladies, wear pants if you plan to try to shimmy into a banquette, whose awkward metal legs make a dance out of where to put your own.
In fact, on future visits, I would forgo a table altogether and opt for a more romantic arrangement: two seats for my date and me at the front bar, where conversation requires leaning in rather than shouting, and a direct line is available at all times to one of Quinn’s fellow oenophiles, whom we’ll ask to bring us something worldly and exotic. And not too stingy on the pour.
Telegraph 2601 N. Milwaukee Ave.; telegraphwinebar.com
Photograph: Chris Guillen