As we continue the inevitable march toward another Chicago winter, one easy way to gain a temporary reprieve from the cold is to find a place that makes you feel like you’re a thousand miles away from here, in a balmy state like, for instance, Louisiana. Ina Mae Tavern, hiding just a block north of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park, is one such place. The New Orleans–inspired tavern has been a neighborhood hotspot since opening last summer, serving up creative cocktails and a soul food from executive chef and NOLA native Brian Jupiter, a James Beard Award semifinalist. Jupiter’s cuisine also recently earned Ina Mae a coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand award — one of just 54 in the city.
Though the culinary accolades might imply a bit of snootiness, Ina Mae is anything but. It’s a cozy bar whose front door is adorned with Chicago’s most iconic piece of dive bar decor, the Old Style sign. Inside, patrons belly up to a bar that could be straight out of a bayou general store, or sit at rustic wood tables under the giant Dixie Beer ghost sign, noshing on fried chicken served on distressed enamel dishes and po’ boys in plastic baskets. With a musician crooning from the second-floor balcony and a belly full of comfort food, you might find yourself forgetting where you are.
And if, when last call rolls around, you find you just don’t want to leave, a recent addition to the Tavern has made it a bonafide staycation option. Last month, Ina Mae opened The Beachwood Inn, an Airbnb in the space above the bar. The rustic lodging, named for the bar that previously occupied the address, offers a lounge area, sleeping accommodations for four, and small vintage kitchenette. It’s another cozy spot to escape the impending chill.