If you spent your formative years hanging out in a basement — especially one that hadn’t been updated since the 1970s — you’re going to love Dorothy (2500 W. Chicago Ave.), the new watering hole below sister spot Split-Rail. The subterranean bar evokes everything great about those days, with the added perk of quality cocktails.
Like all good basements, Dorothy feels like it was built in the pursuit of comfort and good times. There are cushy couches aplenty: The first thing you’ll see is a pair of comically oversized, red fabric loungers. Before you plop down onto one of them, you’ll have to kick off your shoes, but Dorothy's heated floors will keep you comfy even in your socks. Walls are covered in wood paneling or funky vintage wallpaper, and all of the furniture, lighting, and accessories feel era-appropriate. The turntable behind the bar spins artists like Loretta Lynn and Diana Ross, and in one corner, a trio of disco balls throw twinkling lights across the room.
It’s a surprisingly large space for a basement, with plenty of different nooks to hide out in. On the night of our visit, local astrologer Jordan Shomer was offering readings in a dark corner of the bar.
The drinks skew experimental — beverage director Michelle Szot describes Dorothy as a place where she can get a little funky with her cocktails, in contrast to Split-Rail’s more traditional offerings. Try the Queen of Cups, which is made with chile-maple butter washed rum, or the Midnight Margarita, a carbonated draft cocktail that subs Tattersall lime crema for lime juice and gets its gothic hue from activated charcoal. There’s also a handful of local beers on tap, and a dozen or so Champagnes and other bubbly.
Hanging out in a basement was always an escape, a place free of pretense and formality — and a place you’d hang out with friends. That's Dorothy in a nutshell, without worrying about waking your parents upstairs.