Chicago's 694 Wine & Spirits
Chicago's Best Kept Secret
I've been with this Chicago wine bar from day one (I was there the evening it opened its doors), back when it was called "Juicy Wine Bar" and owned by the irrepressible Rodney Alex. It's now under new ownership, but the high standards set by Rodney still rule: Amazing, handpicked wines, beers and small-batch spirits and liqueurs are accompanied by only the best foodstuffs, including Batali Salumi Artisan Cured Meats, delectable cheeses and scrumptious desserts.
The primary food offerings at 694 include sausages, cured meats, and cheeses as well as panini made with Red Hen bread. (694 makes the best grilled cheese on the planet. Seriously.) Get on 694's mailing list, though, because they often run food specials throughout the week. For example, right now (April of 2012) the bar's owners break out the Weber Grill on Wednesday nights so that the staff can cook a variety of dishes for hungry customers. The menu changes weekly, but might include jalapeno-brown sugar kobe burgers, swordfish steaks, jerk chicken and fun side dishes like high-end elotes (grilled corn-on-the-cob topped with cheese, homemade mayo and hot sauce). Tuesday nights feature BLTs made with Benton's Bacon. . .simply the best bacon in the world.
Hint: The staff knows what's good, so don't be afraid to ask for suggestions. Also, their products are sometimes in short supply, meaning that not everything on their menu is always available. Again, your server can suggest a good alternative.
Here are some other don't-miss options at 694:
- The butter and salt plate. Three butters (goat's milk, Parmigiano-Reggiano whey butter and a cultured butter from Maine) get paired with three salts: Hawaiian red sea salt, black lava salt and a black truffle-infused sea salt. 694 serves the butters with a thinly sliced baguette and all is then right with the world.
- Desserts vary, but often include brownie flights as well as chocolate cake with a creme brulee filling. Very nice.
- During the summertime, 694 grows herbs on its patio. If you are offered a dish that makes use of these super-fresh herbs, order it.
694 is a wine bar that also offers an excellent selection of spirits (most of the spirits and liqueurs on offer are. The by-the-glass selections change regularly, be sure to ask your server for recommendations. The bottle list is more extensive and you also have the option of buying a bottle to take home (at retail prices). I particularly like that 694 serves their wine in large glasses, allowing good air exposure.
- Hint: 694 typically offers eight to ten different wines-by-the-glass, with an even split between reds and whites (along with one or two pink and sparkling wines). Sometimes, though, the bar has another bottle or two open, so if you want something different, ask if they are pouring other wines that evening.
694 Wine & Spirits boasts a modern look: Lots of wood, cork and neutral colors. Dress code is casual: Some folks come in after work so may be formally dressed, but jeans and t-shirts are just fine too. Dating couples seem to enjoy the place, as do groups of friends. Prices aren't cheap, though, so if you are looking to save money, come with a group and order wine by the bottle and share a few plates of food to keep costs down.
Local DJs regularly spin at 694 Wine & Spirits and the bar often sponsors (or co-sponsors) events such as Fast Dating, wine tastings and food truck rallies. Again, get on their mailing list (or visit their website) to find out what's going on.Yes, the bar also has space for your private party, so be sure to call and ask about packages and booking.
How To Get There
694 Wine & Spirits is located 694 N Milwaukee Ave (Milwaukee and Huron). Free parking is easy to find in the area. Very accessible via public transit: The Milwaukee 56 bus stops across the street and the Chicago Avenue Blue Line stop is a couple of blocks north of the bar. Cab fares from downtown (Ogilvie Station) run about $7.