Tag - review

Bar Review: Rye in Louisville
Bar Review: Liberty in Seattle, WA
Gin-sperimentation: Caorunn Scottish Gin
Aloha, Tiki Month….
Tiki Podcasts
Bar Review: Sable in Chicago

Bar Review: Rye in Louisville

The good photos in this post can be found larger on Rye’s site.

Rye is a restaurant and bar located in Louisville, Kentucky, and while I am sure I’m not revealing any secrets to residents, people who visit Louisville should keep in mind that the corner of Market and Campbell is an outstanding location to both eat and drink.

Rye occupies a narrow, renovated, brick two-story with an attractive patio and extensive kitchen garden outside. They have their own parking, though I have no idea how sufficient it is, as our visit was late on a Sunday evening. The main floor is split into two fairly equal parts, the dining area and the bar. The barroom is huge, with high ceilings and lots of open floor space. The bar itself is a massive, light-colored, wooden surface with very heavy iron and wood stools that provide seating for 6-8 guests at each end of the bar, with a wide standing area in the center. I really like this design element in a bar as this stretch provides patrons access to the bartenders when the place is packed. The rest of the room is fairly open, with the length of the opposite wall lined with standing height shelf-tables, complete with more stools. There is plenty of light as well. The overall feel possesses that vaguely 20′s vibe that seems so de rigeur of craft bar/restaurants these days, but completely avoids the twee bits which send such decor over the edge in many instances.

We ate at the bar, and I will start with the food. To be honest, I was really paying attention only to the drinks when we arrived, so the extraordinary quality of the food caught us pleasantly off-guard. The “Coulotte Steak” was a perfect medium rare, no ordinary feat in itself for such a thick cut. And while I must admit to usually viewing any significant sauces on my beef as distractingly gilding the umami, the gorgeous one offered here complimented the meat both to the eye and to the tongue.

The triple-cooked fries we shared were exactly what french fires are supposed to look and taste like. I think we may have been the last customers of the night, and the kitchen had already started to break down the fryer when we came in and ordered. Instead of saying it was too late for the fries, or some other excuse, they set it back up and got us our deliciousness. This is called a desire to take care of the customer….

The real highlight however was the Berskshire Pork Chop my wife had. Delicious, but what struck me was that it was every bit as moist and tender as my steak. That is something you just don’t see with modern pigs. I understand that Rye buys their pigs whole and cuts them on site, so our chops had likely still been part of a whole pig that morning.

Rye Pig
They do other interesting things with pig, too.

All in all, chef William Morris knows what he’s doing, as you can see from all the time I’ve spent on the food in a bar review.

Our bartender was Ben Greer, and he took great care of us, even when I lingered over dinner on a Sunday night where he might otherwise have gotten home at a reasonable hour. Thanks, Ben.

The back bar at Rye is not one of those showy craft bar walls with the bewildering floor to ceiling selection of bottles you will never get around to trying. It being Kentucky, they simply spread out their excellent, sizable collection of whiskeys all the way down the back shelf. It didn’t surprise me that they had a truly impressive selection of ryes, in addition to all those lovely bourbons. The rest of their more than sufficient inventory is tucked away, leaving a neat, uncluttered arena.
Rye Backbar
The cocktail menu holds two pages of a variety of originals, as well as a page of suggested classics. The offerings tend toward the strong and aromatic, but there are enough lighter efforts to keep any responsible drinker happy. Among the real standouts is their Santa Anita, which is made with Cerrano-infused tequila, a bouquet of citruses and cilantro, and Hellfire Bitters. We were warned it was spicy, and it was. But lordy was it delicious, and seriously refreshing, too. Even if you aren’t usually a fan of spicy cocktails, I recommend giving this one a try.

Of course, you also learn a lot about a bar staff by going off the menu, and the slightly modified Whiskey Sour, complete with Peychaud’s-garished froth, was just as delicious.

Rye features fresh juices and house-made syrups, of course, but these days that could just mean the kitchen boils up some simple every Thursday. Not here. Any time I can have a fifteen minute conversation on the making and application of bar syrups, I a) am in cocktail geek heaven, and b) can tell there is going to be all manner of clever and interesting flavor offerings for the clientele. (Beyond those I personally sampled, that is)

To wrap up, I’ll come back to where I started. If you live in Louisville and haven’t tried Rye, why on Earth are you waiting for me to tell you to get down there? And if you plan to visit Louisville, I don’t think you’ll go wrong making an evening of it at Rye. They’re on Open Table, so set up your date. They are also on Twitter @RyeOnMarket, and their feed is active and full of information and good pictures.

Oh, and a quick thank you and shout out to Lindsey Johnson (@LiveTheLushLife on Twitter), who sent me to Rye, and who has been a wealth of knowledge about all sorts of places to perch, in Louisville and elsewhere.

Bar Review: Liberty in Seattle, WA

I had a chance to visit Seattle this Summer with my family. Since we had the kids with us, I didn’t get a chance to do a real detailed exploration of this, one of America’s premier cocktail towns, but I made sure to have enough time to hit a few highlights, and to get a feel for the general cocktail environment in town.

For a variety of reasons, I will lead with a review of Liberty, at 517 15th Ave. E. (@LibertyLovesYou on Twitter) Liberty is the love child of cocktail warriors Andrew Friedman and Keith Waldbauer. Andrew started Liberty in 2006, with Keith joining him later, so that makes this a very well-established and long-lived high-end bar. I’ve known, or at least “internet known”, Keith since I started blogging, as his now fallow Moving at the Speed of Life was one of the first cocktail blogs I read and among the first such blogs written by a working pro.

Liberty and its owners take great care to characterize it as “just a neighborhood bar”, rather than some Fancy Dan Craft Bar.
This is a load of bull fritters.
I insist that this is a fabulous, high-end bar. From the back wall (pictured above) full of a head-spinning array of ingredients headlined by a magnificent but not over the top selection of whisk(e)ys, to the menu filled with a great selection of classics and modern creations, to each and every drink that I saw placed before me or any other customer, Liberty is a cocktail lover’s dream. This is place with drinks like the Point of No Return, which simply lists fire among its ingredients. (If you visit Liberty, be sure to try one. It’s both delicious and a lot of fun to watch being made.)
There is also an excellent balance between the types of drinks on the menu. Andrew and Keith offer not just a wide variety of spirit bases and flavor profiles, but also what I’ll call “levels” of drinks. Many craft palaces I enter have menus of naught but ridiculously baroque concoctions that will be awesome to talk about with one’s fellow geeks at Tales of the Cocktail, but are too bitter, complex, or simply weird for anyone else. There are drinks here for the snob who isn’t “on duty” that evening, and the “training wheels” offerings still have something of interest to be learned from.

That said, Liberty also really is a neighborhood joint. Liberty’s location is one of the things that really strikes me about it. It is is located on a fairly modest stretch of retail shopping in a quiet residential neighborhood, rather than in the restaurant, tourist, or entertainment districts where most “serious” craft bars dwell.
Tourists like me are an anomaly in Liberty, and businessmen drinking here are likely doing so on their own dime, rather than an expense account. As a result, the prices are almost shockingly modest for such offerings.
To satisfy the Licensing Gods’ demand for food service, not to mention that of any reasonable drinker’s stomach, Liberty has the elegant and tasty solution of devoting about five feet of its bar to a sushi counter, with one or two cutters as demand warrants.

The place has that well-used feel of many older bars, the kind that have been open forever, have seen weddings and wakes, sometimes for the same customer, yet never ever feel run-down, through the sheer force of the love and responsibility of its proprietors. The seating is comfortable, both at the bar and around the room. The bar itself is moderately sized and fits in visually, rather than dominating the space like some altar to the Gods of Fernet and Angostura. There is even a large back room for meetings and private parties, but which is essentially invisible to the regular clientele.

Your average oblivious Jack and Coke drinker could make of Liberty his Third Place happily for years and never care or even realize that he was spending his time in a temple of high-end concoctions.

And this last point, the seamless melding of tavern and cocktail palace is what makes Liberty so interesting to me and, so important to the craft movement.

Craft cocktails as an industry have had a fascinating decade-plus of growth now, and are in a different stage of development in nearly every city in America. When you travel like I do all over the country killing people, you can move forward and backward through the whole history of the craft, using airline or auto as your time machine.
Many locales still have yet to see the first blush of our passion; the only “lime” in bars still has with the word “Rose’s” writ upon the bottle. Other cities have merely discovered the joys, and the commercial possibilities, of fresh or more exotic ingredients. Many, like my own Columbus, have a few restaurants and bars that are making a try at true high-end drinks. And cities like Seattle or New York have reached the point where the craft bars are a well-understood phenomenon, and most high-end restaurants have reached the point of having to offer competitive programs of their own.

But like any movement that is reaching maturity, at least in some markets, there is now a lot of angst about where to go from here. Because the simple facts are, craft cocktails made with exotic syrups, or oddball bitters, or cinnamon smoke, are not for everyone. And even among those who do enjoy them, they are unprepared to drink them all the time. There are very real limits to speed of growth and profitability in the craft movement.

This is why bars like Liberty, and Anvil in Houston, and to some extent Passenger or Bourbon in Washington, DC, are so significant, and why I admire them so much. These are places that serve all drinkers well, not just our specific clientele. The aforementioned Mr. Jack and Coke can happily hang out there with his buddy Mr. Vieux Carre. And Mr. Sazerac can find the opportunity to hit on Miss Greyhound here. (Mr. Grey Goose Martini, don’t waste your time hitting on Miss Knob Creek Old-Fashioned. It’s not going to end well for you.)

Bar like Liberty are where previously undiscovered reserves of cocktail lovers (as opposed to cocktail drinkers) will be uncovered. The easy atmosphere provides no barrier to entry for the uninitiated (quite the contrary), but the magnificent offerings are the sort that can open doors and minds. If you visit Seattle, take the time one evening to cab your way to Liberty and settle in for a great evening. If you live there, this is the kind of place you take your uninitiated friends when they are resisting being initiated….

Gin-sperimentation: Caorunn Scottish Gin

It’s pronounced “ka-roon“. Caorunn is a new gin from that hot bed of white liquor production… Scotland? Produced at the Balmenach whisky distillery in the Speyside region, Caorunn is a small-batch gin with a uniquely Scottish character, a gorgeous bottle, and fascinating flavors. Given the nature of this blog and my own significantly Scot heritage, I am compelled at this point to ask Mike Myers for his opinion on Scottish gin:

Caorunn does not distill its base grain neutral spirit at Balmenach, since pot-distilled barley is not exactly a great base for gin. The Scot element comes from the water (of course) and the unique blend of botanicals, including five unusual ones which they identify as “Celtic botanicals“. Heather, Dandelion, and Bog Myrtle all are sharply evocative of Highland landscapes. Coul Blush Apples are an early 19th century hybrid, recently rediscovered. The final element is Rowan Berry, which the maker describes as “the very soul of Caorunn.” Rowan berries are traditionally used in a variety of Celtic herbal medicines, and seen as a powerful source of mystical good fortune. Also, they are popular eating and commonly used to make or flavor brandies, though I’ve never seen such here in the US.
The traditional botanicals are juniper, coriander, angelica, cassia, and lemon and orange peels.

The infusion of the alcohol into gin is what is performed at Balmenach and is performed in the above pictured 1920′s made copper berry chamber. The botanicals are spread out on the wide trays you see, then the chamber is filled with the alcohol vapor over a long period to infuse them into the gin. This contraption was originally designed for extracting essential oils used in the manufacture of perfume. It is a pretty uncommon device for distilling gin.

The spirit resulting from these unique as the processes and ingredients is pretty special in its own right. Caorunn is bright and very clean in flavor, and has for me the rather odd effect of smelling lightly sweet while tasting fairly dry. The apple in particular seems evident in the nose and less so in the mouth. It is certainly no Tanqueray, but I think it is closer in character to a London Dry than it is to the hard to define “New American” gins.

I like this gin. A lot. But it is not a gin you can deploy indiscriminately in all cocktails. Its real strength is in combination with other herbal flavors. To that end it is a simply magnificent Martini gin. It is difficult to describe why this gin goes so very, very well with vermouth, but it does. I don’t go with the whole olive thing, so I cannot attest to how things will go if you like to dirty up the waters. On their extensive and beautifully illustrated recipe page, they recommend garnishing a martini with a slice of apple, which I have not tried, but will next time I get my hands on some really good ones.

I’m into my second bottle of Caorunn, largely because it’s about the only thing I’m making Martinis with any more. When I find a particular brand that seems perfect in a particular drink I make regularly, I tend to just dedicate it to that particular purpose. But of course, as with all gins I had to try Caorunn in the Greatest Cocktail Ever Mixed™. I actually tried this first, and it almost made me give up on Caorunn from the start. I think the product has a Kryptonite, and it is indeed green: The Lime. There is some chemical interaction happening between the two that triggers a very slight but notable acridity in the mix. If you peruse the brand’s recipe page, you won’t see lime listed at all in the excellent Search by Ingredient feature.

So, no Pegus, no Rickeys, no lime with your Caorunn. It seems to go quite nicely with other citruses, however, and some whose taste I trust say it works particularly well with grapefruit. Rather than get frustrated with this weirdness, I just chalk it up to the marvelous opportunity for experimentation cocktails offer.

Caorunn is not yet available all over the US, so I am happy indeed that Ohio is among the first states where it is distributed. I’m guessing that it will be appearing in lots more markets before too long, so if it isn’t in your local store right now, keep looking. In the meantime, it is available from several online retailers such as DrinkupNY.

Aloha, Tiki Month….

Well folks, the long, tropical, volcano-lit dusk of Tiki Month is at last over. The sun peeks up over the eastern horizon, and the spirits of the Tiki Gods flee their hand-carved wooden totems.

Reality intrudes….

I think this has been my best Tiki Month to date. Although the Tiki Month 2012 page link will disappear sometime tomorrow from the header, it will still be available, and you can look back over everything I wrote this time through there. But I thought I’d do a little roundup of everything I posted, so you can see what you might have missed and want to look for.

I did eleven drink posts, from the sublime to the ridiculous. I had a great time talking with Ed Hamilton, the hero of American Tiki fans who brought us back Lemon Hart 151. I really started to get into the whole Tiki mug thing this year, alas for my wallet.

I also managed to gin up some almost controversy over Beachbum Berry’s comment about Tiki and “guilt-free sex“.

I had a full-on, dress-up Tiki party in my temporarily Tiki Basement Bar. My kids loved the makeover at first, but they now want it restored to normal conditions. They like to hang out down there and it is hard to read by “volcano light”.

I spent a good bit of time navel gazing here at the end on why I did the first Tiki Month, and more importantly, why I keep doing it.

And of course, the blog highlight of the month was Mixology Monday LXIV: Tiki! Thanks once more to all the bloggers and other writers who contributed the more than 40 pieces to February’s carnival. And yes, I hijacked MxMo for my own purposes. I think it worked out well for all.

The most important thing to me about this year’s Tiki Month was all the buy-in and participation I got from so many of you. There were vast opportunities to employ Rule 2 as blogger after blogger hopped on the Tiki Month bus and made their own contributions on their own blogs. I linked every post I saw, if I missed yours, please let me know. Beyond that, I got lots of comments this month. Comments are like nectar for bloggers, folks. When we get them, pro or con, we know you are paying attention. We all need to comment more. This month I got tons of feedback and it really kept me going. It wasn’t easy, but I managed to average just over a post a day, not counting sideblogs. It wasn’t easy, but the attention people were paying made it so.

Aloha everybody. I hope you come party with me again next February, but I also hope you stick around and keep reading here the rest of the year!

Exit Question: What do I drink tomorrow night, Old-Fashioneds or Manhattans?

Tiki Podcasts

At this point in Tiki Month, I think it appropriate to discuss one of the many legacies of the late Steve Jobs: The podcast. Sure, he didn’t invent it, but he didn’t invent the MP3 player, the personal computer, or digital music downloads either. He just made them workable and/or legally reasonable for white-bread Americans like me. I am not a huge podcast guy, but there is one activity I do a lot of that is conducive to listening to podcasts.

You see, if I don’t mow my grass every couple of days in the Summer, full-grown deer can hide it in with no trouble. Having a lawn in Ohio is a constant fight to keep your house visible from the street.

Thus, every few days, I mount my mighty steed and do battle with the bluegrass besieging my home on all sides.

I thus have plenty of time to listen to things over my noise-cancelling headphones whilst Blade-Biter and I do battle with the green horde, and I fill that time with podcasts. Two of my usual favorites are the Ricochet Podcast (Warning: Includes conservative screenwriters, columnists, and others who often use the term “RINO”, as well as the occasional Pat Sajak. This makes it obviously a broadcast of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy™) and How to do Everything (WARNING: A production of National Public Radio, and thus obviously a broadcast of the International Communist Conspiracy®). Both make me laugh, but they aren’t enough to get me through all the grass.

I’ve put together a few podcast suggestions for you that are appropriate to Tiki Month, some of which I’ve known for a long time, others that are new to me, but are ready on my computer for when the Spring comes. Listen to them when you like.

I’ll start with a few Tiki music-oriented audio podcasts:

I’ll start with Brian Cooper’s Exotic Tiki Island Podcast. This is a brand-new one that features music from Brian’s own collection of vintage exotica on LP. The sound quality of the music is exceptional for vintage vinyl, and the music is great. He doesn’t talk a lot, but he does throw in some other stuff between songs, including some vintage, Tiki-themed advertisements. As I write this, there are only four episodes, but the latest one is less than a week old, so I expect more content to come.

The Zen Tiki Lounge Podcast is another fairly new effort. It is more of a chat show with lots of music. In between the music there is a lot of banter and some good discussion about Tiki drinks in addition to Tiki Music. It also has been a very regular producer of new podcasts over its still short history. The companion website has episode summaries and any food or drink recipes discussed during each.

The Quiet Village Podcast, from Digitiki is inexplicably not directly available through the iTunes store, but iTunes users can still subscribe manually, as I have. I think that this one is the best of the batch. Digitiki himself is a member of one of the very best exotica bands out there today, the Tikiyaki Orchestra.
As of last week, there have been forty five episodes of The Quiet Village, an extraordinray number. The podcasts have become less frequent of late, but Digitiki is to be forgiven since he recently spawned a child or something. Each episode features lots of cool music and very detailed, interesting discussion about most every song played. There is usually a guest for him to talk with about the subject matter as well. While most of the one hour podcasts center on Tiki-style music, he does go slightly away for some thematically close stuff. His two-part podcast retrospective on James Bond music is simply awesome for even the casual Bond fan.
The production values and Digitiki’s voice on this podcast are utterly professional, better frankly than most such programs I’ve heard on places like NPR or Pacifica. If you like Tiki music at all, you need to check out this podcast for a sea of music you simply will not be able to hear anywhere, much less buy.

Podcasts also come in video as well. The very first one I ever subscribed to, video or otherwise, was the late, much lamented TikiBarTV. Come back to us, Lala! OK, you can bring back Dr. Tiki and Johnny Johnny if you must…. Tiki Bar TV is a must watch, even if you don’t give a damn about Tiki.

The Velveteen Lounge Kitschen video podcast is genius. A dead-pan retro housewife (Kelly Camille Patterson) first mixes up a decent-sounding cocktail, Tiki or otherwise, then produces a somehow appetizing-sounding dish straight from what ought to be the darkest culinary days of 1959…. I may actually go buy some SPAM. The podcast is not 100% Tiki, but it is definitely of a piece with the era. If you don’t want to subscribe to the podcast, the whole series (34 episodes so far) is available on YouTube as well. I’ll wrap up this survey by embedding the episode A Lovely Luau With SPAM.

Bar Review: Sable in Chicago

Over the Martin Luther King Holiday, I took my family to Chicago for the long weekend.

Wait… What?
You voluntarily went to Chicago… in January

Because I have a nine year-old daughter, who absolutely had to have one of these:

She had saved up her money (a lot of money), so we took her to Chicago to the American Girl Doll store to buy the doll, and do the Experience, including brunch in the store’s restaurant.

We’d have done dinner instead, but I hear the cocktail program there is terrible….

This, however, left me with a powerful thirst each evening. Fortune smiled upon me in this in the shape of Sable Kitchen & Bar. I’ve written before of my fondness for the Kimpton chain of boutiquey hotels. We chose one of their Chicago offerings, the Palomar, because it has a pool, only to find from my “legion” of cocktail geek twitter correspondents that adjoining its lobby was one of the most highly recommended bars in the city!

I was surprised to such a nice hotel bar, Bambara, in the Hotel Marlowe in Boston. I was amazed to find not just an above and beyond hotel bar, but an absolute top-shelf craft bar in the Palomar. Really. It rocks.

Sable is a restaurant as well. And a delicious one. Chef Heather Terhune (@HeatherTerhune) runs a smooth and elegant operation. The menu is an eclectic mix of range of dishes from sides such as duck fat french fries and all sorts of game entrees, to things like sweet corn creme brulee and bacon jam with toasted baguette points. They offer fried chicken on waffles for both dinner and weekend breakfast. Most of the larger dishes are offered in half-portions to facilitate a Tapas-like sharing experience.

And it is all really very good, though I’ll admit that while the bacon jam was as tasty as I expected, it had more of a novelty appeal for me. Still, you know if you go, you’ll order it, because, well, bacon jam.

Terhune is a contestant in the current season of Top Chef. I don’t watch the show myself, but I was told by some fellow guests that she is being given the “villain’s cut” by the show’s editors… poor girl. But that probably means she’ll be around til the end. Regardless, I don’t care. I’d eat at Sable often if I lived anywhere near.

But the bar….

The room is on a corner of the hotel, with solid glass walls on two sides of the very large space. The decor is modern, all dark leather and wood with metal accents. The bar itself is huge, about 40 feet long, with a massive liquor wall behind, boasting an impressive selection of all manner of spirits, rather than the 73 identical bottles of Grey Goose you find behind too many bars.
The bar has a design element that I’ve not really seen before and which works very well. Most of the bar is dark wood, and fronted by large, comfortable bar stools. But two segments of the bar, about 6-7 feet long each, are glowing blocks of white marble. There is no seating here and these spaces are for patron standing, rather than server access. For all its high-end nature, Sable is not an intimate environment. It is a hotel property after all, and well situated in downtown Chicago, so I’m imaging it is packed to the gills with power ties after regular workdays. It was plenty full every night we were there on a holiday weekend. (Yes, I had at least one drink there every night. Shut up.)
Crowds suck especially hard for a cocktail geek, as once the seats at the bar fill up, it is ordinarily impossible to interact with the bartenders without looming over or squeezing between other patrons. If they will put up with you trying. These blocks of standing room only at Sable’s bar go a long way to fixing this. Yes, they can fill up too, but people who are standing are more likely to make room happily, and the crowd in these segments naturally turns over much faster. The bottom line is, even on a busy night, you can still get to the bar staff.

And at Sable, getting to the bar staff is well worth the effort. Lead Dog Mike Ryan (@gastronautmike), who is currently sporting a lot more hair than in his picture on Sable’s website, is a star. A former chef, I’m guessing he just liked people too much to stay in the kitchen. Mike has a terrific resume, including Violet Hour; can carry on a cocktail geek conversation with the best of them; mixes drinks with care, craft, and style, while somehow also being swift; and has allegedly read this blog before. So what more can I say? Oh yeah, he also has what I consider the most important quality in any manager, bar or otherwise: He attracts good people.

Mike Ryan, now with 250% more hair.

I drank there every night, but Friday night Sable was the only place I drank. I spent a couple of hours bellied up to one of those glowing marble sections of the bar, trying to find the limits of former Pittsburgh bartending fixture, Fred Sarkis (@FredSarkis), and failing. This is how the Official Illustrator of the Cocktailosphere™ told me on Twitter to recognize Fred: “Reddish mustache, powerful build, probably wearing a vest. Moving swiftly & smoothly, making shakers beg for mercy.” Accurate but incomplete, as Fred has added a gigantic bartender’s beard since Pittsburgh.
I felt like being a pain in the ass, as usual, so I just kept describing elements I wanted in my drink and letting Fred decide what to make me. Everything he returned to me was not only essentially what I asked for, it was good too. He made me an Old-Fashioned with yellow chartreuse and cinnamon syrup that was particularly good.

I blush to say that I can’t remember the name of the bartender who served me Sunday before an early bedtime, but he too knew his drinks and his drink talk.

The cocktail menu is lovely, as you can see in the picture above, with a thick cover and page after page of about half original cocktails and a listing of spirits. The word “vodka” appears but twice. And while they put a certain cocktail on the menu, they have the puckish balls to refer to it by its proper name, the Kangaroo. The menu is also liberally sprinkled with a variety of excellent quotes of cocktail jokes and aphorisms. Many of these I had not read before, which is saying something. I was able to resist stealing one only because it is available online.

Sable is a wonderful cocktail bar, earning a spot in the overall top echelon of bars I’ve been to around the country. It bests a number I can think of with far wider reputations. It isn’t intimate, but the noise level is reasonable, and the crowd surprisingly manageable due to the innovative bar layout. There are no crazy high-end Ice Programs or Soda Programs, but I could perceive nary a corner cut either. Most importantly, should your fancy extend beyond the menu, the staff has the inventory and tools, and moreover the knowledge and inclination, to take you there. If you live in Chicago, you really need to explore Sable for yourself. And if you travel to the city, Sable alone is enough to put the Palomar on your short list of places to stay.

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