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  • Sportsman's Club - Great Libations & Hospitality

    Post #1 - February 16th, 2015, 10:11 pm
    Post #1 - February 16th, 2015, 10:11 pm Post #1 - February 16th, 2015, 10:11 pm
    LTH,

    With this year's impressive crop of GNR nominees, the bar has been set pretty high. Happily, there's a bar that rises to the level of that, erm . . . bar (so to speak). Sportsman's Club in Humboldt Park opened in December of 2013 and in the 14 months since then, has become one of the most enjoyable and welcoming watering holes in all of Chicagoland.

    First and foremost, it's a comfortable neighborhood bar with friendly service and a welcoming vibe. The main bartenders are Wade McElroy and Jeff Donahue, both of whom spent time at Barrelhouse Flat, among other places in town (and beyond). These guys completely understand what hospitality means. So does bar manager Jacyara de Oliveira, who put in some time at the fabled Drawing Room. All three are among the city's very best and they treat their customers exceedingly well in countless ways. They're friendly, helpful, and eager to share expert information about spirits, brews, cocktails and libations of all sorts.

    They stock their bar quite nicely and offer a small but mighty menu of 4 cocktails that changes daily. In addition, there's the namesake Sportsman and the Amaro Machine (a continual, solera-style drinkable history of nearly all the Amari that have ever been served there), which are both served daily. The Low Life -- Miller High Life and shot of whiskey -- is always available for $5. And the taps are interesting and thoughtfully chosen.

    Another thing that really makes Sportsman's Club shine is its line-up of excellent bartenders. Not only is the regular staff cordial, knowledgeable and supremely talented but some of the city's finest bartenders regularly take shifts there. The place is a mecca not only for those who love drinks but also for those who love to craft them.

    Even though its reach as a drinking destination goes far beyond Humboldt Park, Sportsman's Club is truly a neighborhood bar. It's not unusual to see regulars playing backgammon on the game boards that are built into the tables. The music, almost always conveyed via analog reel-to-reel, is eclectic and consistently the best of any Chicago bar I've ever spent time in. They open their doors to all sorts of events, including fundraisers (one documented here). They also have a great selection of packaged goods -- small bottles of spirits, bitters, etc. -- which is well curated and exceedingly convenient. And while they don't serve their own food, they regularly host local chefs who bring in their own and make use of the large outdoor oven and adjoining patio that are located behind the bar.

    On the downside, Sportsman's Club is a relatively tight space. It's popular, so it's not always an ideal destination on weekends. Even on the early side on weekends, it can get crowded quickly. Such is the mild price of success, which happily, hasn't affected the price of drinks. From the very beginning they've been quite reasonable and they remain so. Cocktails are $10. The Sportsman is $8. Most beers range between $5 and $9. So in spite of its popularity, it remains what it always set out to be: A Great Neighborhood Bar.

    Discussion here, at the main thread, is a bit lean but almost entirely favorable (allowing for the digression about cash vs. credit). But the place has received several other favorable mentions in our forums. And just about any LTH Cocktailista would likely have Sportsman's Club on his or her short list of best drinking destinations in the city.

    Image
    Special Cocktail @ Sportsman's Club

    Sportsman's Club website
    948 N Western Ave
    Chicago, IL 60622
    (872) 206-8054

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #2 - February 16th, 2015, 10:52 pm
    Post #2 - February 16th, 2015, 10:52 pm Post #2 - February 16th, 2015, 10:52 pm
    My current favorite bar in Chicago, along with Analogue. Love the Sportsman bar staff, especially Jacyara, and the Amaro machine is genius! Outside or inside, it's a great space. Love to see this nomination!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #3 - February 17th, 2015, 7:59 am
    Post #3 - February 17th, 2015, 7:59 am Post #3 - February 17th, 2015, 7:59 am
    I love the amaro machine. Definitely a go
  • Post #4 - February 17th, 2015, 1:33 pm
    Post #4 - February 17th, 2015, 1:33 pm Post #4 - February 17th, 2015, 1:33 pm
    Love the amaro machine w/its "continual drinkable history" and the reel to reel. have had nothing but great times here.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #5 - March 2nd, 2015, 7:38 am
    Post #5 - March 2nd, 2015, 7:38 am Post #5 - March 2nd, 2015, 7:38 am
    Sportsman's is at top of my list of cocktail spots that opened in the past year. Their approach to cocktails is simple and balanced. I love the vibe, the obligatory game of checkers, and the amaro machine. I support them as a GNR.
  • Post #6 - March 2nd, 2015, 5:04 pm
    Post #6 - March 2nd, 2015, 5:04 pm Post #6 - March 2nd, 2015, 5:04 pm
    I love this bar, while it can be a close in cold weather, when the back is open there's no nicer space in Chicago. The bartenders are wonderful to work with, last summer I was sitting at the bar trying to figure out what drink to make for one of laikom's Montrose picnics that would both use up an excess of tequila I had and incorporate Campari. The bartenders took on the challenge of helping me and we came up with a tasty concoction that the group liked, how much more neighborhood can you get. The creativity of the drinks plus the amaro machine means I'm a regular. GNR, yes please.
    For what we choose is what we are. He should not miss this second opportunity to re-create himself with food. Jim Crace "The Devil's Larder"
  • Post #7 - March 16th, 2015, 10:52 am
    Post #7 - March 16th, 2015, 10:52 am Post #7 - March 16th, 2015, 10:52 am
    I enjoy a cocktail or three at Sportsmans. It's a comfortable setting, especially during the week, and there's always a great reel-to-reel soundtrack (though it can get loud on Saturday). My fave drink is their house barrel old fashioned, which is made from their unfiltered 10-year Russell's Reserve. I'm in favor of this nom.
  • Post #8 - March 16th, 2015, 8:42 pm
    Post #8 - March 16th, 2015, 8:42 pm Post #8 - March 16th, 2015, 8:42 pm
    Sportsman is hands down my favorite new bar to open in Chicago in the past couple of years. The cocktails are simple, classic and spirit-forward without any unnecessary fussyness. The amaro machine is phenomenal. The staff is friendly and helpful, even when they are slammed and even to clueless cocktail newbs. And the bar itself is full of character and eminently instagramable. (That last one isn't one of my criteria for a GNR, but it doesn't hurt.) I cannot walk into this place without running into a friend or five. Sportsman is the perfect place to give out-of-towners a snapshot of just what is so enthralling about the cocktail community in Chicago right now.

    Yes to a GNR for Sportsman's Club!
    The meal isn't over when I'm full; the meal is over when I hate myself. - Louis C.K.

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