First our man-on-the-ground in Chicago recommended Takashi as one of the go-to restaurants for visitors and Chicagoans alike. Next, he gave props to the very well respected The Publican. Today, Adam goes for drinks in Logan Square, as he descends on
2421 N. Milwaukee Ave
A bar, an art space, a performance space, and a record label all under one roof? Admittedly, it sounds more like something you’d find in Brooklyn than in Chicago’s Logan Square, but it works. And it works very well.
The Whistler is housed in a converted storefront, and the gallery, aptly named The Storefront Gallery, takes up the whole of the window display area (seen only from the street). There’s a new installation from a Chicago artist every two months. It’s small but effective, and instantly inviting, brightening up a particularly drab stretch of Milwaukee Avenue.
Once inside, the exposed brick space opens to a smallish (capacity 74) room with 4 or 5 tables and an intimate stage. Toward the rear is a narrower bar area, featuring a sleek wooden bar with several stools. Here’s where the magic happens. An ever-changing menu of around 10 cocktails is created by part-owner Paul McGee, a superb mixologist with a national reputation.
Now he’s concentrating on this modest barroom, and the reasonably priced cocktails (almost all are $8) are both delicious and different than those you’ll find at other trendy hotspots. I was somewhat leery about ordering The Vermont (gin, apple brandy, maple syrup, lime, and bitters) as I feared the maple would push the sweetness over the top. Not to worry, the ruddy drink was tart, refreshing, and satisfyingly strong. I also tried a Barrel-Aged Martinez, which is Old Tom Gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and bitters, aged in oak for several weeks. It was one of the more memorable cocktails I’ve had the pleasure of drinking—kind of a smooth hybrid between a Manhattan and a martini. The oak aging gave it a smoky flavor and helped mellow it out. McGee also creates some unusual ingredients for his drinks, such as Chai-tea infused whiskey and tobacco bitters.
Of course, Paul and the rest of the well-trained staff will happily mix you whatever you want from the well-stocked bar. Cocktails aren’t your thing? They also have some really excellent beers (though none on tap), as well as Pabst.
Though the cocktails are exquisite, my favorite thing about The Whistler is the fact that the excellent bartenders are all so friendly and helpful. They’re genuinely warm people and make The Whistler a very welcoming place, something that seems to be missing from most “hot” cocktail bars. The Whistler is opened every evening at 6 p.m. (5 p.m. on weekends). Bands and/or DJs play/spin most nights starting at 9:30. I love The Whistler and I hope you will too.
Have you thrown a couple back at The Whistler? What’s your take? Tell us in the comments.
Read more of our guide to Chicago: