Tag Archives: Wicker Park

Best Bloody Marys We Drank in 2014

2014 was a bloody good year indeed.

We brunched and imbibed at some of the city’s best bloody mary spots. Not to mention the fact that we were on Windy City Live (!!), attended two delicious bloody mary contests and partnered with Thrillist to find Chicago’s most ridiculous bloody marys and name the best bloody marys by Chicago neighborhood. This was perhaps our bloody best year yet.

Looking back at the delicious bloody marys we enjoyed, the struggle is real to pick our favorites. There are so many solid ones to pick from. However, three distinctly stood out to us.

3. Big Jones

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This Andersonville spot brings a taste of the Big Easy to Chicago. And this includes their signature bloody mary, which we loved for its simplicity and flavor. This bloody mary a standout, thanks to its quality ingredients that include tomato juice (duh), lemon juice, Crystal hot sauce, housemade worcestershire and fresh horseradish. If this wasn’t reason enough to check out Big Jones, their complimentary beignets are. Read original post here.

2. Bub City

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We learned about the deliciousness of Bub City at Chicago’s First Bloody Mary Competition and had to check it out for ourselves. Usually, bloody mary bars can be overwhelming. Not here. After ordering, you take your token to the bar, hand it to the bartender and begin by picking your rimmer and your poison (your choice of vodka, rye, bourbon and tequila). Then, choose your mix (we reco the house mix, which you can also buy) and round out with garnishes and a High Life pony.

While you pick the variations, this bloody mary proves to be incredible. It’s smoky and spicy, mostly in part to BBQ spices and cumin. Plus, we adore the garnishes bar, in particular the pimento-cheese-stuffed olives, roasted green peppers and shrimp. Original post here.

1. Sunda

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When bloody marys have over-the-top garnishes, we don’t usually buy the hype. Sure, Sumo Mary topped our Thrillist list for most ridiculous bloody mary, but not for nothing. The flavor of the drink itself is pretty amazing. Chef Jess, its creator, let us in on the secret. In addition to cucumber and cilantro, this giant bloody includes a Vietnamese dipping sauce, garlic vinaigrette and yuzu, a Japanese fruit. Overall, it’s distinct, refreshingly flavorful and unmistakably Asian. Different from any other bloody mary we’ve ever had.

But the topic of all conversation: the meal on top. This garnish isn’t for the faint of heart, including: a baked Alaska crab roll, Chinese duck bao bun, piece of thick braised pork belly and grilled cheese with tochino (Filipino sausage), oshinko (Japanese pickled radish), roasted potatoes, shishito peppers, loompya (Filipino egg roll), Chinese broccoli and four piece of bacon. And at 64 oz. and $40, this bloody mary is made for sharing. Original post here.

Honorable mentions

2014 was filled with great bloody marys, and several deserve a shout out. Two notable honorable mentions include Dusek’s in Pilsen and Dove’s Luncheonette in Wicker Park. We love Dusek’s Beer & Board Bloody Mary because it’s insanely well balanced and heavy on the horseradish. It’s the kind of bloody mary we want to drink every weekend. And new to the scene this fall, Dove’s Luncheonette’s bloody mary is smoky, spicy and flavorful, much like the restaurant’s Mexican-inspired fare. Check it out and thank us.

Thanks for drinking along with us in 2014! Wishing you all a great New Year’s and a spectacular 2015 ahead. Cheers!

xoxo, Amber and Elaine

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Dove’s Bloody Mary, Dove’s Lunchonette

Walk into Dove’s Luncheonette and you might forget what decade you’re in.

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Grab a seat at the counter and enjoy the timeless feel made possible by the wood paneling, 60s soul music and brown Hull mugs. It’s the kind of joint your grandpa would have patroned in his hay. If it existed then. It’s a diner that gives an unfussy vibe in the best way possible.

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Now for the bloody mary. You’ll have to excuse the hyperbole, but this is one of the best we’ve had in a while. It’s smoky and spicy, thanks to the housemade “grandpa mix,” a term coined by our server. This bloody is mixed with CH Vodka and finished with smoked black pepper, celery and root bitters and a simple lemon, lime and celery garnish.

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Given its neighbor and sister restaurant Big Star, it’s not surprising that the cuisine is Mexican inspired or that it’s incredibly delicious. Plus, you can put an egg on it, any of it, for a mere $1.

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Everything was amazing, but the standouts were the red chile enchiladas and smoked brisket taco norteno. The enchiladas’ guajillo-ancho chile sauce was incredibly flavorful and spicy. The smoked brisket was tender, well seasoned and mixed with an interesting combination of textures and flavors which include avocado and chicharones.

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Pro tip: Go early for brunch. This place is delicious and in Wicker Park, so it’s better to coast in before the cool kids get out of bed. Best get there as close to 9am when the diner opens.

Dove’s Bloody Mary: Our rating (scale of 1–5)

Taste: 4

Spicy: 4

Treats: 3

Creativity: 4

Overall: 3.75

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La Maria India and Margarita Carmesi, Las Palmas

If you could guess anything about us from browsing our corner of the internet, besides the fact we love bloody marys, is that we love brunch with a Mexican flair. If there’s a Mexican-inspired dish on the menu, at least one or both of us is ordering it. Yeah, we’re that cutesy couple that always orders the same thing at restaurants. Except, you know platonic.

Because one of us (ahem, Elaine) is particularly obsessed with brunching at Las Palmas as of late, we figured why not give it an official Bloody Best visit. Obviously, drinks were in order.

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One of us ordered La Maria India (tall, skinny number above), Las Palmas’ version of a bloody mary, which includes a housemade chipotle mix and Kettle One vodka. The other ordered the Margarita Carmesi because it sounded like a bloody mary and margarita in one. It essentially is: house-made roasted tomato juice infused with jalapeño, lime juice and Milagro tequila.

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Here’s the thing: both drinks were incredibly tasty with a refreshing tomato-lime flavor and a hint of spice. But they tasted almost exactly the same—except for the fact that margarita had a distinct tequila flavor. Perhaps the bartender was different that day or there was a mix up of sorts. Hey, we’re not complaining. They both were good. Just not what we were expecting.

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You guessed it. We ordered the exact same dish off the menu, Huevos con Chorizo. Isn’t that cute? Sure glad we did too. Neither of us would have been up for sharing. It’s a flavorful dish made with house-made chorizo, scrambled eggs and a crunchy tortilla, topped with pico de gallo, black refried beans & queso fresco. Our advice: go ahead and add a little of that salsa that comes with the complimentary chips.

We’re looking forward to coming back in the springtime when we can sit on the back patio. Girls can dream about warm weather, right? At any rate, the bright and airy sun room with its eclectic art was pleasant enough.

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La Maria India and Margarita Carmesi: Our rating (scale of 1–5)

Taste: 3

Spice: 3.5

Treats: 2

Creativity: 3.5

Overall: 3

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Gourmet Bloody Mary Bar, Rockit Bar & Grill

Herein lies the age old question: Where does one go for a bloody mary before a Cubs day game?

One of us coming from Wicker Park, the other from South Loop, we split the difference at Rockit Bar & Grill.

“You know there’s a Rockit in Wrigleyville?” you say.

Well, yes. Experience has taught us that any bar near the stadium would be a shit show for a weekend game. Plus, we took it as an excuse to give the Gourmet Bloody Mary Bar a shot.

For $5, this bloody mary has to be the best value in the city.

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First off, you get a mug of housemade bloody mix and Absolut Peppar, not some crappy, insta-hangover, well vodka.

Where you take it from there is up to you. The menu claims at least 18 garnishes and ingredients. However, the chart at the bar (plus the hot sauces on the periphery) added up to at least 30.

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You could make a meal out of the garnishes. Quality shit, too. Shrimp! Ham-wrapped cheese! Goat cheese-stuffed olives!

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We were all like:

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While this wasn’t our first rodeo with a bloody mary bar, we were quite impressed. It’s hard to compare it to Green Door because this one is less build-from-scratch and more dress-it-up yourself.

One thing is certain, you get a lot of bang, spice, zing for your buck. Like Arnold, we’ll be back.

Gourmet Bloody Mary Bar: Our rating (scale of 1–5)

Taste: 3

Spicy: 3

Treats: 4.5

Creativity: 3.5

Overall: 3.5

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The Hawaiian, Bangers & Lace

We admit it. Brunching on the regular has turned us into snobs.

These days, it takes a lot to impress our tastebuds. But every once in a while, a tomato juice and vodka concoction will catch us offguard.

Enter The Hawaiian at Bangers & Lace in Wicker Park. We’d been here a handful of times for the impressive craft beer list and brunch. This particular visit, however, was purely bloody-mary motivated.

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This bloody mary stuck out in our minds well before we started officially keeping track. In our humble opinion, totally worth a Sunday Funday stop.

It’s spicy, smoky and sweet. And different from any other. You know, much like ourselves.

We’re guessing this bloody owes its smokiness to the Schlenkerla Rauchbier, dubbed on the menu as “bacon beer.” We aren’t familiar, but it labels itself as a “smokebock” elsewhere. Call us Nancy Drew.

Given this joint’s devotion to craft beer, it’s no shocker they do craft vodkas in their bloodies, namely Death’s Door. The housemade mix (sampled in the The House Bloody Mary on a previous visit) has a kick of its own, which is amplified by the ground red pepper. The pineapple juice adds a slightly perfect sweet finish.

The Hawaiian lacks in the garnish department. Frankly, we didn’t miss it. There’s a lot going on, and a garnish would only distract from the goodness.

The Hawaiian: Our rating (scale of 1–5)

Taste: 5

Spicy: 3.5

Treats: 3

Creativity: 4.5

Overall: 4

Bangers & Lace also has a bloody called The Meat & Potato, made with potato vodka, veal demi-glace and a beef jerky garnish. Anyone tried it?

Restaurant Information


* Restaurant Name
Bangers & Lace
* Overall
★★★☆☆
* Neighborhood / Cuisine
West Town / American New
* Street Address
1670 W. Division St. (N. Paulina St.), Chicago, IL 60622
* Phone
(773) 252-6499
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Bloody Mary, Carriage House

Patio weather makes us blissfully lose our minds in this city.

When it debuts around April or May, our love of sipping beer outdoors makes us ignore the risk of frostbite. And when it’s 90 degrees and 90% humidity, we equate sweating and swampiness as par for the course.

Well, we indeed lost our minds when presented the opportunity to brunch al fresco at Carriage House a few weeks ago. Who could blame us? This place’s outdoor space is  gorgeous with a touch of rustic and chock full of Southern hospitality.

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We arrived fairly early, so we snagged a table outdoors IN THE SHADE. Warm with a slight breeze. Dreams do come true.

Now the drink of the hour, the bloody mary. While it didn’t inspire a frenzy of “oohs” and “ahhs,” it hit the spot. Slightly spicy and pickly on the palate. It’s the kind of bloody you could drink over and over. The only fault we could find is its Miller High Life pony doesn’t come standard. It was a $2 add on. What’s up with that? What’s up with that? You don’t pay for the beer back at most joints. Alas, not a deal breaker.

Bonus points for serving French Press coffee though. Hashtag delicious.

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The brunch menu reminded us of Grandma’s cooking. If your Grandma had been a chef and/or had the wits to add ingredients like truffles, tarragon and gouda to her southern favorites. The menu was on the heavy side. But damn, everything sounded good.

After debating between several dishes, we chose the chicken & biscuit and the aptly named mushrooms.

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The chicken & biscuit is a carbalicious dish your Grandma would indeed fix you and then make you clean your plate. The biscuit was homemade perfection, but the dish as a whole felt heavy, especially when the shade vanished and the sun took its place. Biscuit sweats. They exist.

Now, the mushrooms. The mushrooms. Combined with the chicory, savory grits, nameless cheese and truffle vinaigrette, it had a delightfully nutty and light flavor. Or perhaps we are suckers for anything involving grits.

Carriage House Bloody Mary:  Our rating (scale of 1–5)

Taste:       3.5

Spicy:   3

Treats:  3

Creativity: 3

Overall:      3.125

When you brunch at Carriage House, do try to do so outdoors. But be careful not to lose your mind.

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Restaurant Information


* Restaurant Name
Carriage House
* Overall
★★★☆☆
* Neighborhood / Cuisine
West Town
* Street Address
1700 West Division Street, Chicago, IL 60622
* Phone
(773) 384-9700
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Bloody Mary, Trenchermen

Hello, fellow bloody mary fans! We hope everyone’s summer is off to a stellar start.

We’ve taken a hiatus from the blog as we’ve been busy working and galavanting to weddings and South America. But because we haven’t been blogging doesn’t mean we haven’t been brunching!

A little while back, we ventured to Trenchermen, which has generated buzz since it opened a few months ago. It’s located at North and Damen in the space that was formerly occupied by Spring.

Because we’re in the business of beverages at Bloody Best, let’s start there. First off, get the coffee. It’s Stumpdown and it’s brewed by the pour over method. Do that.

Next, get yourself a bloody mary. It’s a solid one. The jury is still out as to what exactly pok pok is, but we heard it’s fish sauce (can anyone confirm or deny?). If that’s the case, it’s no surprise there’s a slightly savory calm to the spicy sriracha. And everything is better with sriracha.

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Honestly, we may have been more impressed by the Better than Advil. It’s like nothing we’ve sipped before—floral and refreshing, thanks to cucumber and another mystery ingredient, jardinere. According to our friend Wikipedia, jardinere is a dish “that is cooked or served with a mixture of spring vegetables, such as peas, carrots, and green beans.” Whatever it is, we likey.

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Fun fact: Trenchermen actually means “a hearty eater.”  The brunch menu is certainly hearty fare built for a hearty eater.

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The standout was grits, which we ordered for the table to share. It was savory with a citrusy finish and a perfectly softly poached egg. We also ordered the croque madame, which unfortunately ran out. It was replaced by a duck pastrami with homemade giardinara and topped with a fried farm egg.

Given the creative brunch libations, we’re intrigued by the other cocktails on the menu. Has anyone imbibed or dined at the Trenchermen? Holla at your girls.

Trenchermen Bloody Mary:  Our rating (scale of 1–5)

Taste:       3.5

Spicy:   3

Treats:   3.5

Creativity: 3

Overall:      3.25

Restaurant Information


* Restaurant Name
Trenchermen
* Overall
★★★☆☆
* Neighborhood / Cuisine
West Town
* Street Address
2039 West North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647
* Phone
(773) 661-1540
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Bacon-Infused and Rajun Cajun Bloody Marys, The Southern

This is officially the most fashionable Bloody Best brunch.

Not because we were ultra inspired by Fashion Week, but because we were lucky enough to have Karrin from Style Sound and Monica from Caravan of Style join us.

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We met these fabulously stylish ladies at the Nellcôte Oscars party a few weeks ago. It was immediate blogger girl crush. And once Monica confessed she hadn’t found a bloody mary she liked (record scratch), we insisted on remedying this immediately.

New friends made and blog addresses exchanged, we decided fashion brunch would take place at The Southern in Wicker Park.

Chances are, you’ve visited The Southern Mac & Cheese Truck. But if you haven’t tried the brick and mortar, think bourbon and comfort food. Paired with a My Morning Jacket-laced soundtrack, your narrator with “Kentuckiana” roots felt right at home.

You guessed it—the bloody marys have a Southern flair too. For scientific reasons, we tried all four on the menu. Our favorite? Bacon Bourbon bloody mary.

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It’s smoky and smooth with bacon subtleties. We liked this bloody because it’s different from any we’ve tried before, made with bacon-infused bourbon. Sure, bacon is trendy but this is no gimmick. TOO LEGIT TO QUIT. We’re in awe the bacon stayed crispy the whole time.

Karrin, an avid bourbon and bloody mary fan wished it had a bit more spice.

I liked it, but I wish there was more than a smoky flavor.

And it could have been her “Kim K. vest,” but the Kentucky Cucumber Bloody Mary with Effen Cucumber wooed Monica to the bloody mary side.

It’s awesome. I like how light and crisp it is. It’s not too cucumbery. Refreshing.

The House Bloody Mary was pretty solid as well. The one that ranked least for us was the Rajun Cajun Bloody Mary. We were expecting some heat with a name like that and Southern Comfort Fiery Pepper. But SoCo will be SoCo.

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SoCo Fiery Pepper has the sweetness of its big sister, and there just wasn’t enough spice in this bloody to cut it. We added Tabasco to make it go down smoother.

Being girls, we sampled from each other’s plates. Fried chicken and catfish aren’t things you’d normally find on a brunch menu. Believe us, it more than works. The fried chicken tastes as good as your Grandma’s: juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside. Karrin said it: “This is the best effing chicken.” And there aren’t enough delicious words in the dictionary for the perfectly blackened catfish and cheesy grits. Swimming in a spicy sauce and accented with the housemade hot pepper vinegar, it’s savory and divine.

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Savory seems to be the theme of the brunch. The French Quarter French Toast is a choregraphed dance between savory and sweet. Crunchy and delicious with fresh banana, caramel and pistachios. The Charleston Benedict was also incredible, but we are gluttons for a good benedict. The eggs were perfectly poached and the dijon mustard was an interesting spin on hollandaise.

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Good looking food and bloodies. Ridiculously good looking brunch dates. We’d say fashion brunch was a bloody success. And also? Get thee to The Southern for brunch immediately.

Bacon Bourbon Bloody Mary:  Our rating (scale of 1–5)

Taste:        4

Spicy:      3

Treats:       3

Creativity: 4

Overall:      3.5

Rajun Cajun Bloody Mary:  Our rating (scale of 1–5)

Taste:        2

Spicy:      2

Treats:      3

Creativity: 3

Overall:      2.5

Restaurant Information


* Restaurant Name
The Southern
* Overall
★★★☆☆
* Neighborhood / Cuisine
West Town
* Street Address
1840 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
* Phone
(773) 342-1840
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Famous Bloody Mary, Smoke Daddy

Got ribs? We did.

Smoke Daddy isn’t one of the first places that come to mind when you think brunch. In fact, they don’t serve brunch at all (yet). We actually came because of a bet and BBQ sauces.

See, one of the Marys has a husband. And said husband is into everything sports, real and fantasy. On the line was a Smoke Daddy meal to the winner of the fantasy football league. And well, he won.

Prior to our visit, our bet would have been that Smoke Daddy‘s Famous Bloody Mary is amazing. After all, Smoke Daddy does BBQ oh so right. And countless people have told us that their bloody is among their faves.

To be honest, we were slightly underwhelmed. BEFORE you become outraged, we acknowledge it could have been an off day. The housemade mix (which is also available for purchase) is slightly smoky and it’s accompanied by a splash of Guinness and a tiny High Life bottle. Half the group paid an extra $1 to add Effen Cucumber Vodka, thinking it would add smoothness to the spice (To the credit of the server, she told us that she wasn’t a fan of it). Either way, the bloody mary tasted slightly watery and lacked the spice and flavor that we adore in their homemade BBQ sauces.

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The garnish in this Famous Bloody Mary, on the other hand, is a showstopper. Warm smoked brisket and pulled pork. Enough said. Maybe the best garnish we’ve experienced yet.

Now, the food. We’re not conoisseurs in smoked meats, but Smoke Daddy serves some damn delicious ones. Among those eaten in our group were smoked pulled chicken and ribs. It’s the sides that really get us excited though. Mac ‘n cheese, slaw, smoked pit beans, sweet potato fries, jalapeno corn bread etc. Amazing.

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All in all, we have a lot of heart for Smoke Daddy. We look forward to their upcoming brunch menu, which we learned will probably start in March when the expansion is finished. We’ll be baackk.

Famous Bloody Mary:  Our rating (scale of 1–5)

Taste:        2.5

Spicy:       3

Treats:       4

Creativity: 3

Overall:      3

Has anyone enjoyed Smoke Daddy’s Famous Bloody Mary or bought the homemade mix? If so, what was your opinion?

Restaurant Information


* Restaurant Name
The Smoke Daddy
* Overall
★★★☆☆
* Neighborhood / Cuisine
West Town
* Street Address
1804 West Division Street, Chicago, IL 60622
* Phone
(773) 772-6656
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Signature Bloody Mary, Big Star

Not many things can get you out of bed on New Year’s Day, and do so enthusiastically. But this day marked a truly special occasion.

Big Star was serving a bloody mary.

With the glorious promise of tacos and our favorite tomato-based cocktail, we put our name on the wait list. Shortly after, a few seats opened at the bar. Lucky us.

This ended up being just a drinking occasion, which seems odd for New Year’s Day. We made a meal of the Plantanos Fritos (fried plantains with chile, lime, queso fresco, mojo de ajo and crema), girl talk, and two bloodies each.

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We can’t say enough amazing things about this bloody mary. Made with jalapeno-infused vodka, tomato, smoked black pepper and bloody-mary bitters, it’s smoky, spicy and even a little sexy. According to the bartender, the smokiness comes courtesy of the chipotle and barrel-aged worcestshire sauce.

Finally, a beer back with a purpose. Normally, the small serving of beer feels like a cute accessory. This tumbler of Schlitz came to put out the flames.

This bloody also didn’t lack in garnish: lemon, lime, cilantro, salami, baby corn, pepper, onion and cheese. No wonder we didn’t order a real meal.

When can you get this gem with your tacos, you ask? A tweet from Big Star let us know that it will soon become Sunday menu fixture. Hooray!

Signature Bloody Mary:  Our rating (scale of 1–5)

Taste:        5

Spicy:       4.5

Treats:       3

Creativity: 4.5

Overall:      4.25

Cheers to our first bloody mary of 2013!  We’re off to a fantastic start.

Restaurant Information


* Restaurant Name
Big Star
* Overall
★★★☆☆
* Neighborhood / Cuisine
West Town
* Street Address
1531 North Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622
* Phone
(773) 235-4039
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