Square One offers great ambiance, attentive customer service in Chicago's South Loop

Wine bar 101

08/22/2012 10:00 PM

Contributing Writer

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Bartender Meghan Konecny mixes a gin and grapefruit drink called a Mayday at Square One, Tuesday, Aug. 21. The South Loop wine and cocktail lounge, located at 1400 S. Michigan Ave., opened Aug. 1.
Photos by DAVID PIERINI/Staff photographer

The owners of Square One, a wine and cocktail lounge at 1400 S. Michigan Ave., created seating that invites mingling.

The South Loop’s Square One only opened at the beginning of August, but it didn’t take long to gather a sizable following. On regular evenings, this South Loop bar is packed. But even during a Cubs game, Square One still attracted decent crowds. The indoor dining areas were full, and there were plenty of customers on the tables outside, enjoying the sunny weather.

Located at 1400 S. Michigan Avenue amidst a growing cluster of recently opened restaurants, Square One makes a good first impression and builds on it from there. The striking visuals, relaxing atmosphere, attentive customer service and a wide selection of drinks make the bar a good place to spend an evening.

Inside, Square One is a mixture of two influences. On one hand, the high ceilings, exposed pipes and menu written out along the walls with chalk give the bar a certain loft-like sensibility. On the other hand, Square One also has heavy curtains over the windows and around the bar area, while chandeliers hang over the indoor dining areas.

In a way, the two contrasting sensibilities seem fitting. They reflect the history of the South Loop, evoking the glamour of 19th Century Prairie Avenue industrial grit of warehouses that that dominated the area before the most recent real estate boom.

The windows are wide enough to let in light while still leaving much of the bar shrouded in darkness. The music tends to be energetic without sounding intrusive. This, combined with the interior design, gives Square One a relaxing, comfortable atmosphere.

The wines take up the majority of the menu — mostly an even split between reds and whites. While many of the selections are imported, Square One offers a number of wines manufactured on the West Coast and in Ohio. The wines can cost anywhere between $17 and $41, with most being around $31.

The beer section featured a mix of local brews such as Pullman Brown Ale, as well as brews from across Midwest and elsewhere in United States. They tend to fall within $8 to $12 price range.

But the most unique items on Square One’s menu are its cocktails. Named after Bond villains, they include “Oddjob” (sombra mezcal, passion fruit juice and lemongrass), “Onatopp” (vodka, fresh watermelon juice, maraschino liqueur) and “Valenka” (SquareOne Basil Vodka and Meyer lemon puree with blackberry and cheery liqueurs). The cocktails are $11 each.

Square One offers a meat plate, a cheese plate and two salads. There are six types of cheeses and six types of meats to choose from. Each costs between $3 and $5. While they are perfectly good selections, they represent the sum and total of Square One’s dining options. Anyone hoping for something more substantial should look elsewhere.

Finally, one would be remiss not to mention customer service. The staff made a point to pay attention to all customers, and remained polite and professional even when the customers weren’t cooperative. It went a long way toward enhancing the comfortable atmosphere and making all customers (even non-drinking ones) feel welcome.

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