My girlfriend calls Estereo, a coffee spot by day and a bar specializing in cocktails and spinning latin music on vinyl by night, “the best bar in America!” I agree that this bar has it all. Amazing cocktails, skilled bartenders, an amazing interior, lively music, and an overall fun and relaxed vibe. It is, at this time, my favorite cocktail bar in Chicago and especially during the summer it is a must-go-to for locals and visitors alike!
Located in the hip and trendy bar mecca that is Logan Square, Estereo draws you in right as you pass by the open air bar (in the summer) and the energetic music playing from within. When you walk inside you realize that this is not your run-of-the-mill cocktail spot. The bar counter inside is uniquely triangular in shape and fits in with the aesthetically pleasing and vibrant colored floor tiles, stools, and tables. Large glass garage-like windows soround the bar and allow for fresh air and summer breeze when it is warm enough, which further enhances the vivacious music, exotic drinks, and colorful and dynamic atmosphere.
Estereo does a good job of letting in just the right amount of people into the bar so that service can be quick and customers don’t feel jammed into the space. The music can certainly get people dancing, especially on weekend nights with a DJ tucked into the back of the building. Estereo’s drinks and generally friendly environment are conducive to catching up with good friends and meeting new people. The bar can also serve as a great after dinner date destination and is a good spot for those looking to start off a night out with some delicious, refreshing, and fairly strong cocktails. It’s a very versatile bar overall.
Before getting into the drinks and service another fun thing to point out about Estereo is their bathrooms. Yes, I’m not kidding the private bathrooms are clean, usually don’t have long lines, and moreover they allow you to do your business in what feels like a disco ball! The walls are covered in tiled glass and a disco ball hangs from the ceiling.
The service at Estereo is usually on point. I’ve never had to wait for a drink for more than five minutes. The bartenders are attentive, experienced, and are helpful in recommending what to drink based on your liquor/flavor preference. Cocktail choices can be easily found on a board hanging along the wall which shows the drink names, their prices, and the ingredients found inside.
Estereo keeps most of the same cocktail names year round, but they change up the ingredients, flavors, and sometimes alcohol inside based on what is available seasonly. While I applaud them for constantly changing their drink offerings and trying to source local ingredients, it can be disappointing to learn that your favorite cocktail during the summer is now something else entirely. However, there are always stand out cocktails on the menu each season and it’s exciting to try new drinks!
I’ve had the pleasure of going to Estereo plenty of times with friends and trying many variations of their cocktails. Due to the their ever-changing cocktails, the versions of the drinks that I’ve had may not be the same tomorrow, or for that matter ever again. Based on what I’ve had so far the Beer cocktail they served in the summer of 2017 is my all time favorite thus far. The drink included jalapeño infused tequila, seasonal fruit such as strawberries, and off color fierce beer. The jalapeño infused tequila gave the cocktail a nice kick that paired well with the carbonation from the beer and the sweetness from the fruit. At the time of me writing this review the Beer cocktail is now made with pisco acholado, Off Color Wari beer, piña, and lime. The newest version is just decent now. It’s missing the spicy and sweet combination I enjoyed in the summer version and has a bit too much lime flavor for my taste.
Other summer cocktails like Frozen (a cherry daiquiri) Rum (made with aguardiente suze and lime) and Mezcal (contains watermelon, lime, and chili salt) were all incredibly refreshing and flavorful cocktails that didn’t disappoint. I’m always a sucker for chili salt rimmed cocktails that deliver a bit of saltiness and heat with the cocktail so the Mezcal was definitely a standout for me. Other cocktails from the summer of 2017 that were big hits among my friends included Coffee which as the name suggests contains coffee in it and Singani, made with gooseberry, ginger, and lime.
Recently I tried the winter 2017 version of Estereo’s Cachaça cocktail which made me feel like I was in paradise with papaya, suze, lime, and frutabomba bitters. Two other solid drinks I’ve tried at Estereo this fall/winter season include Pisco (made with Klum Farms Blushingstar and Donught Peaches, Amaro Nonino, lime, piña bitters, and force carbonated beer) and Tequila (contains prickly pear, Sotol, Raicilla, lime, grapefruit bitters, and force carbonated beer). Both of these cocktails deliver a refreshing lime flavor that pairs well with the respective bitters in each drink. One of the few bad cocktails that I took a sip of at Estereo this fall/winter was the Agricole which went for a mix of autumn flavors with apple cider, pear brandy, and all spice. These flavors did not blend well together for me or my friend, delivering an awful aftertaste.
Estereo is a fantastic bar with a unique atmosphere and innovative cocktails. With Estereo changing up their cocktails from time to time, it makes for a great place to explore new flavors, textures, and liquors, but this can also disappoint customers who have become accustomed to a some favorites from a past season. Most of the cocktails that I’ve tried are very good or fantastic, and despite the use of lime and bitters in many of their drink options, all the cocktails have their own distinct taste. These attributes combined with stellar service makes them a five star bar in my book!
-Michael Averbook, Foodie Extraordinaire