Watershed bar in River North
Inside the subterranean Watershed

Aren’t you simply exhausted by the endless efforts to be so unchicly chic? Grannies have taken over the runways; nerds are everywhere; and all the new bars are loosely modeled after barns. One more bite of down-home pork and I’ll explode. If we’re all so desperate to be farmers, why the heck are we living on this giant slab of concrete?

The North Side Southpaws
The Northside Southpaws, who’ll play Thursdays starting September 30th

OK, I’ll admit it: I buy into the shtick 100 percent. I need space! I need grass! I need a splinter in my foot from a hayride on my grandpa’s ancient, weather-beaten trailer.

It’s by no means Green Acres kitsch, but for a cozy, old-school vibe that transports me back to my grandparents’ farmhouse in a jiffy, there’s Watershed, a new bar devoted to artisanal cocktails, craft brews, and a grandma-friendly level of comfort in the basement of Pops for Champagne. Pops previously used the space as a jazz room with a cover charge, but that concept didn’t work out: “We moved the jazz upstairs, and now it’s free,” says Craig Cooper, Pops’ beverage director. The new iteration has its grand opening tonight.

My first visit, on Tuesday, was for a media preview, so I was served a free cocktail—the grassy-green Shake in the Hay, made with North Shore Gin No. 6, usually $10—and didn’t have to fight for a seat. I’ll be stopping back on a regular night soon to get a more official (i.e., Everygal) feel for the place, but right off the bat I can tell you they’ve got the comfort part down. The armchairs are almost as plush as La-Z-Boys, and lots of wood paneling makes for a room that looks lovingly crafted but not oppressively dark. The many beers and spirits are all from brewers and distillers in the Great Lakes region, and I can’t wait to try the fried, honey-brined Cornish game hen with cornbread pudding ($10).

My next visit, by the way, is quite likely to take place around 10 p.m. on a Thursday, on or after September 30th. That’s when a duo of banjo- and mandolin-pickin’ boys—the Northside Southpaws—start their weekly residence (no cover). I swear, you’d almost think you were at a church picnic. Well, you know, with booze.


GO: Watershed (601 N. State St.; 312-266-4932) is open Monday through Saturday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Visit The Chaser’s sister blog, Seen on the Scene, next Monday, September 20th, for more photos of Watershed.