Graham bellies up to the 1550 Bar.
If there’s one place in Chicago—other than my nearby haunt, the River Shannon—that’s like my own personal Cheers, it would have to be the new Whole Foods in Lincoln Park. Maybe everybody doesn’t know my name—it’s a 75,000-square-foot store, after all, with a staff to match—but I’m pretty sure they’ve all seen me giving informal tours to awestruck friends, visiting family, and the occasional stranger. I can’t get over it: The place has everything. Including two bars.
Last night, I asked my friend Graham to meet me there for a holiday drink. It didn’t take much convincing. When we arrived around 5:30 p.m., almost every stool was taken at the front-of-store 1550 Bar, but a fellow patron kindly moved down so Graham and I could sit together. We had planned to stick to beer, which Graham did, ordering a Rogue Juniper Pale Ale on tap ($5). I, however, was sidetracked by the Candy Cane Martini ($8). Drinks in hand, we asked the bartender, Christina, if we were allowed to carry them around the store. “You can take them anywhere as long as it’s not off the property,” she said. “Do you want cup holders for your cart?” Did we ever.
Soon we were merrily pushing our drinks down the aisles, stopping for sips as we stocked up on organic deodorant, bottles of wine (for later), chocolate-covered almonds, and a dinner of tacos and chips from the store’s Pilsen Taqueria, which we carried back to 1550 for consumption.
“This place is cozy,” I said, gazing at the stained-glass lights, the gleaming taps, the pressed-tin ceiling, and the fishnet-clad leg lamp, straight out of A Christmas Story.
“I know; it’s a great date spot,” Graham replied. He recounted a short-lived romance with someone who, for roughly two weeks, seduced him with Whole Foods shopping outings followed by home-cooked meals.
For round two, we picked our beers by their names. I had the Surly Furious IPA ($5), and Graham ordered a brew whose name I’ll encourage you to find out for yourself (if I included it here, The Chaser would become an accidental Internet porn destination). “Yeah, I’ll have that one!” Graham giggled, repeating the name loudly to Christina.
That’s when things began to spiral out of control.
Against my better judgment, I pointed out a good-looking contender ordering drinks a few feet away. “Hey, look: There’s a cute one,” I said to Graham, raising my eyebrows toward a newsboy cap–wearing Paul Rudd lookalike. Big mistake.
“Ooh, Amalie, maybe he’s the one! You always said you wanted to meet someone at Whole Foods!” Graham stage-whispered.
“Shh,” I hissed, jabbing him in the ribs. “Graham, seriously. Don’t.”
“Excuse me! Sir!” Graham called down the bar. “What’s your name? Are you single?”
“It’s Shane,” answered the focus of our interest, looking somewhat taken aback. “Yes, I’m single.”
“That’s great!” Graham enthused. “So is Amalie!”
“Nice to meet you,” I said to Shane, sweating lightly and shooting dagger eyes at Graham. I explained I was reporting on the bar for my nightlife blog. Shane glanced doubtfully at my “notepad” (a slippery scrap of paper scavenged from the depths of my handbag), but gamely shared his stats: Bucktown resident, financial analyst, thought it would be fun to bring his visiting brother, Liam, to Whole Foods for drinks.
Soon after, Graham and I gathered our coats and said our goodbyes. “I can’t believe you did that,” I scolded into his ear as we hugged.
“Merry Christmas!” trilled my own personal Bad Santa as he carried his wine and deodorant into the night.