By Liz Haley
Chicago neighborhoods are constantly evolving, and bars and restaurants need to keep up to meet the ever-changing needs of night-lifers. Pleasing everyone can be hard, but we’ve found a few spots that we think will suit any mood.
If you’re tired of the club scene and are looking for a place that feels like a club without a bouncer or cover charge, check out new Bucktown bar Plan B. Whether you’re there to watch a game or get all decked out and enjoy a few cocktails, Plan B is an unpretentious bar where everyone is welcome and it’s first-come, first-serve. General Manager Matt Field says the appeal of Plan B is that it’s always a fun, reliable choice, whether you’re looking for a place to start or end your night. The bartenders are friendly and without attitude and the beer is served ice cold from frozen taps. The music is mostly a mix of 1980s-1990s crowd pleasers and a DJ spins dance music every night starting at 10pm. You might find guys playing video games on the couches or girls dancing on the pole that separates the main bar area from the more private lounge area. Among the weekly specials are $2 beer cans on Thursdays and thirty-cent wings on Mondays. Plan B’s mixed drink and shot list offers choices from a watermelon martini that comes with a slice of watermelon to the signature “Motorboatin’ Son of A Bitch” shot. The food menu goes above and beyond your average bar fare and offers choices from the Plan B Fondue to “The Heart Attack,” a beef burger with fried ham, bacon, Swiss cheese and hot sauce. Red and black light fixtures and gothic chandeliers accent the ceiling and glossy black leather couches provide a comfortable spot to relax. Graphic designer Maureen Noone, 24, says Plan B is “unique to the neighborhood” and that in an area where new bars seem to come and go every week, she would definitely revisit.
When you’re in the mood for an “ultralounge,” the meatpacking district might not be the first place that comes to mind. But believe us when we say that stylish lounge Lumen is a breath of fresh air amidst the industrialization and factory life of the West Loop. Manager Anastasia Smith says that the West Loop area was a great choice for Lumen because the “area is so progressive.” Located at 839 West Fulton, Lumen lives up to its name with vibrant, chic lighting that accents the bar without overpowering. The DJ area is only visible behind a thin, rectangular opening on the left wall, which adds to Lumen’s aura of sophistication. The colorful, pulsating lights on the ceiling go perfectly with the music, which is upbeat and melodic and accentuates the chill, social ambience. There are no seats at the bar, but there is plenty of room to sit in the spacious, open lounge area. Elegant decorative touches such as vases of white gardenias decorate low-to-the-ground tables and the long, plush velour couches are perfect for sitting back and sipping a glass of wine or one of Lumen’s organic mixed drinks, like the green tea vodka tonic. If you’re looking to unwind after a long day, finish the night with an after-dinner drink or start your night with some cocktails, Lumen is the perfect choice.
Partying like a celebrity just got easier and a lot more fun with the opening of Manor in the heart of downtown Chicago. The upscale “super lounge” at 642 North Clark will make you feel like you’ve left the Midwest and entered an A-list party at the estate of an heiress. The velvet ropes outside the entryway and the studded black doors are your first indication that you’re in for a posh evening. The bar showcases top-shelf liquor and is decorated with avant-garde artwork of European mansions. DJs spin rap and R&B favorites while girls in black lingerie and fishnets stand on platforms and dance to the pulsating beat. The VIP area is the place to be—if you can swing it. The elegant black leather booths and dark wood tables are filled with a well-dressed crowd that loves to party and offers the ultimate privacy. Bottle service is a popular choice, with just about anything you could want to drink. If you’re in the mood to celebrate, order the Veuve Cliquot champagne, which is served with a New Year’s Eve-style sparkler on top. Manor does have a cover charge, but it varies, so call ahead to find out. Make sure to get yourself on the guest list, because you won’t want to miss a party like this.
Plan B, 1635 North Milwaukee, (773)252-2686; Lumen, 839 West Fulton, (312)733-2222; Manor, 642 North Clark, (312)475-1390