Step into Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar (2165 N. Western Ave.) and you’ll immediately be hit with the scent of Chinese food wafting from the kitchen. That’s the first clue that this new Bucktown bar is more than just a place to get a fancy drink. The latest concept from the folks behind acclaimed Logan Square restaurant Giant, Chef’s Special offers cocktails and American Chinese cuisine that’s “fun and delicious with a zero judgment atmosphere.”
Chase Bracamontes, who spent the last few years working with Jason Vincent and company at Giant, helms a cocktail program that plays off the flavors of the food. The drink menu is split into three subcategories — spritz, mixed, and stirred — and within each style, you’ll find an assortment of bright colors and distinctive flavors, courtesy of ingredients like spirulina, saffron bitters, lychee, and lapsang souchong.
An extensive dining menu includes all of the mainstays you’d expect to find at an American Chinese restaurant (think orange chicken and broccoli beef), plus rotating chef’s specials that are a little more daring — like clams and pork belly or oxtail and scallop chow fun. A happy hour menu, available Monday to Friday from 5 to 6 p.m., features specially priced cocktails and appetizer/drink combos, while the late night menu runs until 1 a.m.
The bar's vaguely retro design riffs off both old-school Chicago taverns and family-owned Chinese restaurants. Tuck into a tiny booth, belly up to the 19-seat round bar, or make some friends at a communal table. If you're planning a dinner trip, reservations are a good idea. With a lively atmosphere and a menu that encourages repeat visits, Chef's Special is poised to become a neighborhood fave.