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We're all in the mood for a melody Print E-mail
Written by MATT HEINZE   
Thursday, 26 April 2007
When you want to check out a place that strays from the norm, head downtown to the Redhead Piano Bar.

The Redhead Piano Bar
16 W. Ontario
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 640-1000
Hours: 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. Sundays through Fridays; 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. Saturdays
You're walking east on Ontario with your date. You've just had dinner at the Chicago Chop House and you want to find a classy place to continue the night. You see the daunting Excalibur on your left. You keep walking because [insert reason here]. Then you find it, the Redhead Piano Bar, where it has been for almost 14 years and where it will most certainly stay for the next 14.


"Comfort" is the key word. Owner Art Bryan has emphasized this in his approach to give Chicagoans and visitors a good choice to spend part or all of their evening out. The dimly lit room is surrounded by burgundy walls which evenly display photos and posters to give you the 1940's and 50's lounge feel. One can easily bank on relaxing once inside. The highly professional staff is polite and makes sure to be there for you. Art puts stress on the little things with the aim of having people enjoy themselves the entire time.


There are no doubts that the Redhead Piano Bar is upscale. The crowd reflects this. Guests are required to avoid donning athletic wear or t-shirts, so dress up a bit and no one will know the difference if you happen to be insecure about it. The age range changes as the night progresses. On average it could be 45 year olds at 9pm and 30 year olds by the time 3am rolls around. It can get crowded, so if you'd really like a place to sit, it's recommended that you get there by 9. No reservations.


"I like to call it all-request piano," says Art. A solid lineup of piano player/singers entertains the crowd every night from 8 until close. If you ask to hear a song, they can probably accommodate you, whether you want to hear rock, pop, or the classic standards. Thomas Linsk and Lisa McClowry played the night we came in. Their in-between banter was just as entertaining as their music. People may begin to picture the Will Ferrel SNL skit, but I promise it was quite unlike that. The website shows you who's playing and when. It will also give you a little background on who's who.


Options abound. Choose from over 100 wines by the bottle (20 by the glass), over 30 single-malt scotches, 25 champagnes, and an extensive port list. We took a tour of some of the numerous specialty martinis. Frank's Madhattan, Jose's Mohito, Eric's Chicago Blues, Steph's NY Martini, and the Clockwork Orange were all very good. Their interpretation of the Manhattan was my number one. Since it's my drink of choice, one may call it favoritism, but I found it rivaling others I've had and made myself.


You will find only peanuts in here, so before coming over, make sure you hit up a restaurant along the way. There are numerous places within walking distance. Hubbard isn't far so you can try out Vong or Shaw's. Ruth's Chris and Harry Caray's are close. Personally, I'd recommend Redfish. But if you want something simple, fast, and/or cheap, the Rock 'n Roll McDonald's is right there. And across the street from that is a Portillo's. They REALLY need to put up more of those.


You're downtown, so you know what to expect. From a relative standpoint the prices are reasonable. Plus, you won't get charged a cover even with professional musicians performing every night. Bonus! Beers are $5 for domestic and $6 for imports. Martinis are $8.50 to $10. Wine is $6 to $11 per glass. You can easily be charged more in a place like this, but they believe gouging the customer is no way to keep them coming back.


Not many places in the city offer up the piano player format, especially one that caters to what the crowd wants to hear. Customers also have a choice of either hanging close by the musicians and soaking it in, or lingering in the back area where the music can become more of a cozy background to your conversation with friends. Not many places are like it. As Art said, you can find a 21 year old sitting near the piano next to a 50 year old, both enjoying Sinatra, both enjoying Elvis. The Redhead Piano Bar is definitely a place to visit now and again to keep your nightlife from becoming too routine.

Photos courtesy of the Redhead Piano Bar.

Written by Guest on 2007-04-26 10:23:43

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I would love to see Lumino feature