Loyola grad Rodney Alex worked in wine wholesale and traveled the world in pursuit of vino before settling in Chicago to share his expertise with the rest of us. He calls his newest place "the sequel" to his now-shuttered Taste and promises that Juicy will more than live up to the standards set by its Bucktown predecessor.
The wine list couldn't be easier to read, separated into Bubbles, Reds and Whites and arranged from lightest to most full-bodied. A few go by the glass, but the best choices are by the bottle, ranging in price from $29-$365, with many around $40. Juicy sticks to a $15 markup across the board, so you can be assured that you're getting your pick of the world-class goods without being gouged. Alex, who sources many bottles from small producers who live on their land, puts his heart into the tasting notes: "It's super racy, like bright bing cherries in a silk Gucci handbag."
Keep yourself grounded by nibbling sensational artisan cheeses and meats, available a la carte or in elegant arrangements. Suzanne Wolcott, who formerly ran the cheese board at gourmet grocer Fox & Obel, heads up Juicy's food program. Wolcott favors seasonal, small-farm-produced cheeses, and her selection includes raw-milk, sheep and goat varieties. Plates come small or large (small is enough for four to nibble amply), garnished with olives, almonds, pears and other treats, and range in price from $9-$19. Food choices also include spreads of exquisite cured meats and even a plate devoted entirely to gourmet butters and artisan sea salts. There's also weekend brunch, with $5 plates mostly brought in from other spots (like Charlie Trotter's, Milk & Honey, Hot Chocolate and Harold's). Juicy does make its own waffles, though.
Juicy's cozy interior is completely snuggle-friendly. Friends chat at several small tables on the first floor while couples cluster in plush round booths upstairs, where a DJ spins on a slick elevated stage. The outgoing Alex himself is generally around in the evenings to visit and offer his straightforward and often spot-on suggestions. Wine, cheese and meats are also sold straight from the counter to take home for a private party.
Centerstage Reviewer: Julia Steinberger