Looking for a place to indulge your inner sommelier without feeling like you're trapped in a stuffy starched-to-the-max, whiter-than-white tablecloth restaurant? Trade the airs for your most sophisticated friend's living room and you'll find yourself at The Tasting Room, a West Loop wine bar that offers a wide range of wines by the glass (more than 100, in fact) and bottle, as well as a large selection of premium liquors.
Beyond its superb vintages, The Tasting Room specializes in crafting an experience. Combining a bit of wine schooling with a fun night out for wine lovers and neophytes alike is the standard. After all, it offers every wine, as well as many of its liquors, in a tasting portion, so you can skip your standard California reds and whites and try a sauvignon blanc from South Africa without committing to a pricier glass (you can go straight to the full bottle once you've fallen in love with it).
The atmosphere, featuring plush couches and overstuffed chairs, is anything but pretentious, despite the sophistication of its wine offerings and food. Even wine novices will feel at ease, as each server is not only knowledgeable about the various wines and liquors, but more than willing to help. The best bet may be to try a wine flight, which offers several tasting-size portions of a selection of reds or whites. After you've chosen your favorite, you can step next door to the Randolph Wine Cellar and purchase one of its staggering 1,400 wines by the bottle.
As one would hope, the food complements the wine offerings well, with several internationally themed cheese flights and appetizers (the Tasting Room offers three entrees a night, too). The "global goat' cheese flight, offers a best-of sampling of cheeses from Spain, France and Australia. Among the more substantial appetizers fit for sharing are thin crust pizzas, like the delicious chicken and pesto. The dual-level bar brings in a wide range of young professionals stopping in after work, as well as many forget-work-let's-play couples enjoying the intimate setting. The second floor is not to be missed for its breathtaking view of the Chicago skyline.
Centerstage Reviewer: Ann McDonald