In 2013 celebrated bartender Paul McGee began a resurgence of tiki bar cocktails in Chicago with the opening of Three Dots and a Dash with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprise. In 2015 he left to open up a more relaxed tiki bar of his own called Lost Lake that has been featured on several top bar lists. Imbibe Magazine named it the best cocktail bar of 2016. Time Out Chicago recently named it the best single-focus bar in Chicago and it was on its runners-up list for best bar in Chicago. In May 2017 Esquire named Lost Lake one of the best bars in America. Click here to watch a video that takes a look at Paul McGee and his vision for Lost Lake.
Lost Lake is located in the hip, up and coming Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago. Get here earlier in the evening and you are likely to walk right in, but get here later at night and you will likely find a line outside or have a wait for a table. The small nondescript storefront from the outside is misleading as Lost Lake packs a serious tropical punch right when you walk in with island themed decorations, lights, and music along with employees dressed in tropical shirts. Right away you feel the fun and easy going energy, and you are ready to sip on some killer tiki drinks. One of my favorite areas in the bar is up front near the window where several colorful glass objects hang. It is one of the first things I saw when walking into this tiki paradise for the first time.
The bar sits in the front of the building in a room that is brightly lit with lights in wood netting hanging from a lauhala ceiling. The green walls have patterns of banana leafs as a pink neon sign reading Lost Lake sits toward the back of the long narrow room that contains primarily high top stools near the bar and at the tables. The bar is lined with an array of spirits and mixes as well as vibrant tiki glasses, colorful straws, and wacky stirrers.
In the back of the bar sits another room that is smaller than the front. It is dimly lit by an array of funky lights such as lights shaped like blow fishes. There are slightly bigger tables, one with a couch area, in this back room. Taking good pictures of their IAG (Instagramable as fuck) tiki drink is a bit harder to do in this dark tropical dungeon.
On Lost Lake’s website the interior of the bar is explained best. A stylish tropical oasis-meets-flotsam strewn island hut, Lost Lake evokes both the glamorous tropical escapism of 1930s Hollywood and the rugged nautical, island aesthetic of the world’s first tiki bar — the original Don’s Beachcomber Cafe.
The outside of the menu looks like a giant leaf but once you open it up you get a sneak peek at the tiki magic. Several standard tiki drinks line the page while others are an island spin on classic cocktails. Most of the drinks come in weird, wacky, and wonderful over-the-top tiki glasses accompanied by fantastically colorful garnish and decorations. Those looking for an option that isn’t sugary aren’t likely to find one on this menu as all the drinks that my friends and I have tried are on the sweet side due to the use of juices, fruits, and rum in a majority of the drinks.
During my first visit I started off with the Tic-Tac-Taxi which is made with aged multi-island rum, overproof Jamaican rum, coconut, passionfruit. The cocktail comes in a glass planted in a fun coconut looking bowl with an island fan, a leaf-looking stirrer, and a pink flower to top it all off. Before coming to Lost Lake a friend warned me the drinks were strong, and they weren’t kidding. The Tic-Tac-Taxi was tart and sweet with a nice kick from the rum. I slurped that baby right up and felt some type of way after!
My girlfriend Erin ordered Heaven Is A Place/This Is The Place which combines London dry gin, lime, curaçao, falernum, honey, allspice, and agostura bitters in a tiki cup that looks like a very grumpy/annoyed parrot. The drink is topped with leafs, a leaf stirrer, an island umbrella, and a pink flower. This drink is particularly refreshing with the the sweet honey and sour lime combining well with the dry gin, bitters, and shavings of allspice on top. This cocktail continues to Erin’s favorite and go-to drink at Lost Lake.
After our first drinks we were both feeling good but ready for one more drink. Erin and I found a fun-looking drink called Ruby Mae’s Second Surfin’ Bird which could be shared by two people so we decided to check it out. We had no idea that we would be receiving our drink in a bowl shaped like a volcano with a fire atop this glorious tiki cup. As it came out we became giddy with excitement, ready to sip this delicious concoction down. The cocktail is made with reposado tequila, mezcal, ruby port, campari, pineapple, lime, passionfruit. It certainly has a heavy tequila and smoky mezcal taste. If you are a fan of these particular liquors like me then you will certainly enjoy the drink, but the draw of this cocktail is centered around the sharability factor and fiery presentation.
While I have tried several drinks at Lost Lake in the two times I’ve been, my personal favorite so far is Bunny’s Banana Daiquiri. The drink is over-the-top with its decoration but I love it and could drink this refreshing smoothie-like cocktail anytime. The drink is made with overproof Jamaican rum, overproof Demerara Rum, spiced rum, banana, coconut, and lime. Served in a wide colorful and retro-looking cup is an island umbrella, a pink flower, and most importantly a banana altered to look like a happy dolphin about to go ham on a cherry. It’s a fun presentation, but it’s a stellar drink. It has a thick texture like a smoothie and while it has a taste of rum, the banana and coconut are the most forward flavors. If you fancy trying a different daiquiri, Lost Lake serves up a selection of daily daiquiris.
No matter when you go or what you get you are surely to have a good time with friends at Lost Lake. The bar offers a unique, energetic, and fun atmosphere with delicious sweet drinks in presentations that will excite. You will find yourself sipping and sharing drinks with friends as you choose your favorite out of many standout cocktails. I have many more tiki drinks to try at Lost Lake so I certainly plan to get lost again in Logan Square’s tiki paradise, and I urge you to do the same too!
-Michael Averbook, Foodie Extraordinaire