From Cocktails to Chinese Food, Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Bucktown’s Very “Special” New Bar

Monday, January 20, 2020
The gist: A highly anticipated and intriguing restaurant-bar opening is finally here, as the long-awaited Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar arrives this week from the folks behind the beloved Logan Square restaurant Giant. Here, owners Jason Vincent, Ben Lustbader, and Josh Perlman offer a cozy, casual Bucktown haunt filled with classic-inspired cocktails and Chinese-American food. There are also late-night hours and, in a move that makes me want to move to the neighborhood, takeout and delivery options.
Photo by Galdones Photography/Courtesy of Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar
The drinks: As the name implies, cocktails are the star of the show here, an exciting new endeavor from the group behind one of the city’s most coveted restaurants. Perlman and general manager Chase Bracamontes helm the drinks list, divvied into three categories: spritz, stirred, and mixed, with options like the fizzy Echo Beach (Aperol, banana, manzanilla sherry, lime, Cava), the fragrant Lemongrass Gimlet (gin, shochu, lemongrass, lime leaf), and Smooth Operator (green tea gin, ginger, white vermouth). There’s also an abbreviated selection of beer, cider, and wine, plus a house shot of tequila with ginger-mint-lychee juice.
Photo by Galdones Photography/Courtesy of Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar
The food: The team brought on chefs Aaron Kabot and Tom Scodari to curate the food, which skews Chinese-American and nostalgic, with such options as pork- and shrimp-filled egg rolls, crab rangoon, mapo tofu, cashew chicken, chicken fried rice, and beef lo mein. The lengthy menu reads vintage Americana, with a few added twists, like a selection of Chef’s Special Specials—plus there's a late-night menu with the likes of snow pea tips, dry chili chicken, and cucumber-mung bean jelly salad. Dishes are also available for takeout and delivery, which is a major departure from Giant.
Photo courtesy of Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar
The space: With drinks and food like this, Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar is the kind of place you’d want to linger in and relax, and that’s how Boone Interiors designed it to be. The space is anchored by the large bar and lounge area, along with the dining room and a private events space. The vintage-inspired motif—think: floral wallpaper, ’70s-style fringe lampshades, and retro tavern stools—is a nice complement to the nostalgic cuisine. And the color scheme, rife with saturated jewel tones, is as vivid as the tableware and food served on it. The deets: Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar is located at 2165 North Western Avenue. When it opens January 22, hours will be 5 p.m.–2 a.m. daily, with delivery and takeout available nightly. Reservations are available for large and small parties alike via Resy.