October 31, 2004

Get a Life

Elm Street Liquors. Now, that sounds like a place right out of a horror movie. A leggy blond would snap her stiletto heel while running past the "Elm Street Liquors" flashing neon sign and have to resort to crawling in an attempt to escape her crazed, knife-grasping pursuer. But although this new Gold Coast hotspot may be crawling with leggy blonds on your average weekend night, they definitely aren't crawling away. The name might bring to mind a barely lit, worn-out storefront, but you will not find a flickering fluorescent sign beckoning you in for deals on domestics here. In fact, you won't find a sign marking the place at all—but this hasn't kept away the customers. This bar has only been in town a few months, and it is already gaining notoriety with the twenty- and thirty-something crowd.

Despite the ambiguity of its name and exterior, Elm Street Liquors has a lot of personality. The bar's owners have managed to mix "dive bar" with "swanky lounge" to create a destination with a unique feel. Weathered brick walls and whiskey-barrel tables are juxtaposed with rich leather chairs, mirrors, plasma TVs, and deep blue paint. To top things off, a DJ pumps music through the candlelit space, and his beats get more rambunctious as the crowd does. As the place packs them in, you won't feel far removed from a Hyde Park apartment party because of the layout of the space. The long hallway that leads to an open area in the back gets cozy as night-owls nudge their way through for drinks, so you'd be wise to keep an eye out for a meandering cocktail waitress.

Unlike Halloween, Halloween 2, or Halloween 87, which you might only be in the mood for once a year, ESL offers up something for every disposition. If you want frat party minus the frat, grab a six-pack of Miller High Life (or one of 10 types of bottles on hand) while munching on snacks like basil-seasoned baked potato chips at the bar. For a real throwback, you could even order a round of gin-and-tonic Jell-O shots. On the other hand, if you are in the mood for something a little more posh, step up to the 35-foot bar for a specialty cocktail. Don't expect to be handed the token martini glass here; Elm Street Liquors serves up Champagne cocktails in sleek flutes. And if this isn't enough of a selling point, you have to be wooed by the ridiculously amusing names like Label Whore and Little Blue Pill. Who doesn't want her very own Personal Shopper—a concoction of Champagne, Grey Goose L'Orange, orange juice, and orange marmalade?

With such a variety of libations, you are bound to find the perfect drink accessory for your Halloween costume this weekend. I mean, I couldn't possibly expect to be an effective Audrey Hepburn à là Breakfast at Tiffany's while holding an ice-cold PBR in my bejeweled hand. A cup of lukewarm coffee and a croissant would be fitting, but traipsing around town with a bubbly concoction and a cigarette holder sounds like a better game of dress-up, since I can be spotted sipping a House Blend grande any day of the week. Or maybe I'll opt for a Trust Fund—a citrus-y cognac and Cointreau creation with lime garnish. You see, I like my cocktails the same way I like my scary movies: with a twist.

Address: 12 West Elm Street

Phone: (312) 337-3200


Via CTA: CTA bus #55 Garfield Westbound to Garfield. Transfer to Red Line towards Howard to Clark/Division. Walk east on Division to Dearbourn and turn right. Walk south on Dearbourn to Elm and turn left. ESL is on the right.

Via car: Lake Shore Drive North. Turn left onto Chicago Avenue. Turn right onto Michigan Avenue. Turn left onto East Elm Street. ESL is on the right.