For the typical West Looper whose year included a splurge on a $300,000 loft or a $15,000 diamond solitaire—or both—Randolph Street nightlife can seem like an unwise (and unbelievably expensive) investment. Enter Union Park, an upscale sports lounge located on an uncluttered stretch of real estate on the 200 block of South Racine. Brought to you by the same owners and management team as SoPo, The Grand Central and Bar Celona, Union Park covers its walls with 15 flat-screen plasma televisions broadcasting da Bulls, da Bears, Cubbies and Sox.
Other decorative touches like faux Tiffany lamps and a marble-covered bar top add enough class to keep the young professionals streaming in without making the Gap jeans crowd seem out of place. (Picture the Cheers bar revamped by The Fab Five.) Girls are comfortable splitting a bottle of pinot noir, as are guys in wind pants who headed to Union Park straight from baseball practice.
Patrons sip a wide variety of drinks, and the fact that it's not a live-or-die by the daily specials crowd speaks volumes about the maturity level of the clientele. Full-price drinks are still pretty economical with martinis running $8, beer in the $3–$4 range and sangria listed at $4 a glass. Bartenders offer only 10 martinis in an effort to nail down their mixology skills for the martinis offered. The sangria was better than what’s usually served at tapas restaurants.
The quality of the food meets with that of the drinks. The spinach and artichoke dip comes with adorable mini-pitas for dipping, and other standard bar appetizers are dotted with delicious idiosyncrasies. More creative items were the ahi sushi salad and the coyote (Tex-Mex style) pizza, catering to foodies with its eclectic touches and traditionalists with classic Caesars. Neighborhood locals can stroll over to catch the game and the rest of Chicago can use the free parking lot in their search for a night away from the just-turned-21 crowd, bonding with their buddies for less than the cost of a typical lunch in the Loop.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Robin Wright