Address: 601 N State Street
Type of Meal: Drinks and Snacks
Wanting a relaxed environment for drinks and small bites, we ended up at Pops of Champagne. I loved the mix of modern décor (beautiful metallic high top tables), yet Pops hired a jazz band to mellow out the mood.
Of course, Pops is known for champagne with 100+ bottles on their menu ranging from $42 (for a half bottle) – $700 (for a jeroboam one). Not wanting an entire bottle, my friend and I ordered champagne cocktails instead. Her the stunning La vie en rose ($14) an easy going drink made with elderflower liqueur, bitters, Brut champagne and a sugar cube. While I got the high sage ($11), a beloved concoction of Hendrick’s gin, prosecco, cucumber and sage syrup.
Oysters go so well with champagne. We ordered a dozen for the table ($28), containing a selection of four types (unfortunately, I can’t remember their names except one has to do with a cowboy). But, there was a contrasting selection of lighter, stronger and a creamy varieties. Lemon, house hot sauce, horseradish and apple mignonette arrive on the side for dressing.
The Wisconsin cheese curds tempura ($8) was an upscale take on the mozzarella sticks. I loved the gooey elastic cheese wrapped in a crispy salty batter. On the side was a slightly spicy harissa romesco and a cooling ranch sauce. As a warning, you want to order these in larger groups as even with our table of four they were a little gluttonous feeling by the end.
Perhaps, it’s due to us ordering another deep fried dish – the crispy black tiger shrimp togarashi tempura ($16). The flavours were there but the batter could have been thinner (especially if it was supposed to be tempura). On the side was a light pineapple-habañero sweet & sour sauce to give it extra flavour.
After the drink and light eats we made our way downstairs (literally look for a doorway with a W above it and walk down) and entered Watershed a laid back speakeasy / basement bar. The two lounges could not be more different. Watershed is retro and cozy while Pops is modern and contemporary. Instead of a live jazz band, a simple vinyl record player sat in the corner.
Not seeing anyone working, we grabbed menus and sat ourselves. Low and behold, on the first page of the menu you’re instructed to clap for service. So we did and I tried out their Chicago fizz ($10) a frothy bubbly cocktail made with Tailwinds Amber rum, Tawny port, lemon, egg white and club soda.
Both Pops of Champagne and Watershed offered great cocktails and a wonderful environment. It was the perfect way to enjoy Chicago’s night life without having to deal with lines and crowds. And for that, I say “cheers”!