Thunder rumbled last night as I waited to feed a parking box on Taylor Street, where I’d gone in search of what the proprietors of Three Aces are calling the “largest patio in Little Italy.” The storm was still a few miles off, so my pal Jenny and I waltzed up to the festive-looking expanse of picnic tables newly installed outside the eight-month-old gastropub and took our seats among a group of friends…
The Trainwreck Rooftop Deck—outfitted with a pool table, among other diversions—opened atop the South Loop bar Reggies Music Joint on Monday. See more pics below.
Thunder rumbled last night as I waited to feed a parking box on Taylor Street, where I’d gone in search of what the proprietors of Three Aces are calling the “largest patio in Little Italy.” (Capacity is 140.)
The storm was still a few miles off, so my pal Jenny and I waltzed up to the festive-looking expanse of picnic tables newly installed outside the eight-month-old gastropub and took our seats among a group of friends. (A note on taking a seat at a picnic table: If you are wearing a long summer dress, as Jenny was, it is possible to alight with a shred of dignity. If you’re wearing a short denim skirt, as I was, forget about it.)
All around, fellow patio occupants were drinking PBRs ($2) and eating thin-crust pizzas (most varieties $10). I spotted my friend Sandy across the way and jumped up (well, awkwardly unfolded) to go say hello.
“I came here with my dad last week,” Sandy told me. “It’s nice because you’re not fighting for a table, like at Big Star or something.” It was true: There were plenty of spots to choose from, but that could have been because everyone except us had heeded the weather alerts.
Our next stop of the night was the patio at Ethyl’s Beer & Wine Dive (324 S. Racine Ave.; 312-433-0007), the just-opened bar from Scott Harris and Co. (Mia Francesca, Davanti Enoteca, Disotto Enoteca, and on and on) in the old Stanley’s on Racine space.
My initial reactions to Ethyl’s:
1. They have a parking lot?! Bonus!
2. There’s the expressway. Right there. (Bonus overridden)
3. Can a bar be a dive if it calls itself a dive? Or am I missing some cutesy irony thing?
“What is a toilet doing out here?” asked Jenny as we climbed onto two high chairs on the patio. I tried to look where she was pointing, but, by that time, the wind had picked up in earnest. At the same moment I turned my head, a shard of swirling grit lodged in my eyeball and our menus flew off the table, so we packed it up and headed inside, where I was easily sold on a Cold Ethyl piña colada slushie ($7—but too sweet) at the bar.
What I saw of Ethyl’s cozy patio was promising—and the expressway noise wasn’t all that bad—but the bar’s interior is even better, achieving the rare feat of feeling like a place with personality despite its newbie status. At first we tried sitting at the bar, but the bartender wouldn’t let us talk (“You’re a writer? I used to be a writer. That was before I left Mexico.” And later: “Have you ever had a Tom Collins? No, I swear mine’s not too sweet. It tastes like lemonade. You don’t want one? Let me make you one. Come on.”), so we escaped to the pool table, only to find ourselves too cheap to pay $1 for a game. Instead we watched some other people play pool and paid $5 for a turn in the photo booth (the price is actually $3, but I fed the machine a five and forgot to fetch my change).
A while later, Ethyl’s manager, Dan Barrett, came over to ask how we were doing. As sheets of rain buffeted the windows at the front of the bar, we declared ourselves satisfied—except for one nagging question.
“Why is there a toilet on the patio?” Jenny asked.
“We’re surrounding people with the everyday, but in a different way,” Barrett said. OK, then—just as long as folks understand it’s for decorative purposes only.
Two more new ways to drink outside this week:
• Monday marked the grand opening of the Trainwreck Rooftop Deck at the South Loop bar Reggies Music Joint. According to Reggies’ live-music booker, Casey Sabatka, the third floor deck is meant to be an entertainment mecca, with a basketball hoop, bags, a pool table, a pull shower, sports on TV, and $7 frozen-drink specials.
“A pull shower?” I asked Sabatka.
“It’s for cooling off when it’s really hot out,” he explained. Outdoor plumbing: It’s officially a trend.
• As of tonight, River North drinkers will have a new place for luxury lounging: Studio Paris, the 2,500-square-foot rooftop bar—with a retractable roof, in case it keeps raining—above the Melman brothers’ Paris Club. R.J. Melman tells me Studio Paris will follow a reservations-only model; would-be drinkers should call Paris Club at 312-595-0800 for more info. Be prepared to buy a bottle during the wee hours on weekend nights. All other times will have some sort of table minimum, but prices “will vary depending on what’s going on,” R.J. says.
Click on the thumbnails below for full-sized photos of this week’s new patios.