The Aviary (Bar, West Loop)
Location: 955 W. Fulton Market (entrance is actually on Morgan)
There are two ways to get seated at the Aviary (and you must be seated — no bar lingering). The first is the obvious ‘first come, first served’, but expect long waits on the weekends. The second is to email firstname.lastname@example.org the day you wish to visit and state your name, cell number, party size, and time (the options are only six, eight or ten o’clock). If you are among the lucky one selected for a reservation, they will email you back by 3:30pm that day. If you don’t hear from them by then, you’ll have to try again another day. Sure enough, we got an email confirming our reservation for five people at 8pm on a Wednesday. Perfect.
Our amuse bouche watermelon “cocktail” came as soon as we sat down, and was a nice introduction to what we could expect during our time at The Aviary. You can order two ways at this trendy cocktail bar — a la carte, or you can do the prix-fixe menu which includes three cocktails for $45. The a la carte cocktails range from $18 to $28. This isn’t your average joe dive bar, and neither are the prices. Consider yourself warned. Three of us chose to go a la carte and two did the prix-fixe menu.
From the a la carte we tasted the Blueberry, which is presented in a wheel-shaped glass container filled with different herbs and contents of the cocktail. Our server explained to us that the cocktail steeps like a tea over time, and as you pour from the container into the glass, each time it will have a different taste. The Sangria arrives like a french press — you are able to press the orange peels, pink peppercorns, and herbs yourself before pouring it into your glass. The Ginger comes with lemon grass to stir your cocktail together. The 2 in 1 is literally two drinks in one, that the imbiber enjoys seperately for a while, and then eventually combines them together. The Hurricane came with an umbrella in it, which I really respected from a place that could be dubbed one of the fanciest cocktail lounges in Chicago. The third course cocktails on the prie fixe menu were indeed very sweet and one even contained a vanilla ice cream ice cube. The only misstep was the Horchata served in a styrofoam cup with a plastic lid. Really? Is that avant-garde, or plain lazy? On the other hand, the Rooibos is perhaps the most impressively presented; it is placed over a bunsen burner, boiling the liquid up into an herb-filled container. The alcohol then seeps back down into a cup from which the drink is poured. This hot-tea-like cocktail was a perfect nightcap.
Our service couldn’t have been better. We had a friendly waitress who wasn’t afraid to joke around with us and give her real opinions. We expressed interest in experiencing some of the more intricate cocktails with fancy presentations (that is what you’re paying for here…), and she steered us in the right direction. Everyone was willing to help you, even if it was to simply find the bathroom. Even the door guy was friendly and chatty.
As for the decor, they didn’t miss a beat. We chose to enjoy a nice evening on the street-side patio, which is shielded from the street by tall bushes and furnished with comfortable sectional couches and low-to-the-ground cocktail tables. The inside is ornate and atmospheric, as it should be. High-backed white booths make you feel like you’re sitting on a throne, and offer a nice element of privacy. Not ignoring the spots namesake, the mixology bar is there for the viewing — behind a large birdcage-like wire wall.
This Fulton Market mixology hub is a great place to impress out-of-towners, as it really shows the popularity of craft cocktails and the Grant Ashatz dynasty. If you (and your pocketbook) are looking for an intriguing and delicious night out, head to the Aviary for some
good old fashioned unconventional fun.