You might not be lucky enough to have one in your own lair, but plenty of bars around town feature warm, welcoming fireplaces -- and what better factor when choosing a place to hang on a brutally cold night? (No, staying in is not an option -- there's socializing to be done!) Here's our guide to nightspots that will heat up your nights in more ways than one.
At West Town's Old Oak Tap, you get the convivial vibe of a beer garden all year long. Not only does the ski lodge-inspired spot serve contemporary spins on comfort food (courtesy of chef Jon Manion) and a mile-long list of beers from around the world, Old Oak Tap also boasts a 22-foot-high slate fireplace, perfect for congregating around on long winter evenings. Order up anything from a grilled ribeye (sided with arugula and beefsteak tomato, gorgonzola fondue and ciabatta, $12) to a grilled cheese (with gruyere and swiss on French bread with a "shot" of tomato bisque, $8), pair it with a flight of seasonal beers ($8 for three six-ounce samples) and snuggle up next to the fire.
Over in the Gold Coast, the feel is more timelessly chic European hotel at Cru Cafe and Wine Bar, which features plush velvet couches, glittering chandeliers and an elegant crackling fireplace. It's easy to let an afternoon or evening slip by while you peruse Cru's worldly wine list, which can be sampled by the glass, flight or half or full bottle. Or choose from ports, dessert wines, grappas, sherries, sakes and scotches. The menu leans toward small plates to be enjoyed with your spirits, from meat and cheese plates ($15 for three selections, $25 for six), a trio of mini gourmet cheeseburgers (topped with quail egg, cheddar and truffle aioli, $12) and interesting entrees.
With locations in Lakeview and Edgewater, Uncommon Ground is quickly cornering the corner bar market. Both offer a genuinely friendly atmosphere with neighborhood regulars filling the tables, barstools and comfy couches. Even better, both venues boast large, accommodating fireplaces, which draw crowds of appreciative patrons. The seasonal, locally grown and mostly organic menu features hearty dishes like crispy polenta and wild mushroom ragout ($10) and bacon-wrapped Midwestern meatloaf (yes, your read that right, $18). Sip on American wines, artisan beers or signature cocktails (like the "Tree-tini" -- for every one ordered, Uncommon Ground plants a tree).
So, we want to know: Where is your favorite fireplace bar?