Ever since the happy hour laws changed in Chicago in 2015, counting down til the end of the work day has never been harder. There’s a ton of great afternoon specials (Eater has a good list here) but Bottlefork might have the best happy hour in Chicago — at least on Fridays.
Bottlefork has a “micro happy hour” on Fridays that runs for just ten minutes. From 5:15-5:25 pm, High West Double Rye whiskey shots are $1. I’m a huge fan of High West (Utah pride!) and their Double Rye usually costs way more. So not only is it great whiskey, it’s a great deal.
The rest of Bottlefork’s happy hour runs Monday – Thursday 5-6 pm and 9-10 pm, with $8 gin and tonics, $10 cocktails, and 50% off beer and wine. Just think: you can have discounted drinks to start and end your meal!
Besides the $1 shots, here’s why Bottlefork is really one of the best in Chicago: their food is worth sticking around for.
Why Bottlefork Has One of the Best Happy Hours in Chicago
My friend and I strolled into Bottlefork after a particularly long week and sat at the “Chef’s Table” — the seats at the end of the bar with a front row seat to the kitchen. Every time I’ve ever been to Bottlefork most of the restaurant has been booked with reservations, but bar seats are usually available. If so, sit at the Chef’s Table for some entertainment.
Not only did we get to watch the kitchen action all night, we got to see all the food headed for the tables. Luckily the staff didn’t mind me taking pictures cause I couldn’t help snapping some shots of the drool-worthy food. (And make mental notes of what to order next time.)
Bottlefork’s official name is Bottlefork Bar & Kitchen, and their emphasis on drinks is not lost once you’re there. It is a bar-forward place where everything coming out of the kitchen is created to pair well with their drinks. Not that they need it — their drinks stand alone, and then some.
Their cocktail menu is clearly defined, spelling out boozy, smoky, and sweet options with a visual of how it will be served. They sell more of For the Allocation ($14), with bourbon, Genepy des alpes, Gran classico and orange bitters, than any other item in the restaurant. And once I tried it, there was no surprise why.
Another great concoction was Where the Buffalo Roam ($14), with whiskey, Giffard Blackberry, Rose Noir Syrup and lemon, an excellent whiskey drink delicately balanced with a hint of sweetness. Even the drinks not on the menu — like the Vieux Carre, described as a mix between a Manhattan and an Old Fashion (swoon) — was amazing. The lesson? Talk it out with your server or bartender about what you like and they might surprise you (in the good way).
If you can bring yourself to stray from the crafty cocktails (which I have yet to do), they also have whiskey flights. Some showcase certain distilleries (like three years of WhistlePig, Angels Envy, or E.H. Taylor) and types of whiskey, while others focus on years (the 20 Year Bourbon, a shocking $200, has Pappy Van Winkle, John E. Fitzgerald, and Michter’s).
There’s also a whole bunch of wine and beer available, too.
After we sipped on spectacular cocktails, we started with an order of tater tots ($8) as recommended by our server. The giant tots, dripping with slightly spicy pimento cheese sauce, required a knife and fork to eat and were delicious. Talk about taking tots to a whole new level!
Our server also recommended the beef jerky ($7). My friend and I agreed it’s not something we’d normally order, but we were thankful after. The jerky wasn’t the typical impossible-to-bite-into jerky, but a tender, house made wagyu beef flavored with garlic, soy sauce, and cola. It paired awesome with the For the Allocation cocktail.
For the main act, we split the Ground Bacon Burger ($19). According to our server, it consistently makes the top 3 on all the best burger in Chicago lists, along with Au Cheval. That’s setting the bar pretty high (at least in my book). The burger is ground with bacon directly in it, making the meat nice and juicy. It was one of the better burgers I’ve had, but the bun was a bit soggy and the bun-to-burger ratio was a bit off. The small plates were definitely more memorable.
I can’t wait to try some of the dishes we saw leaving the kitchen. Especially the Grilled Octopus & Housemade Spam ($21) with brussels sprout kimchi, the Nduja Crusted Scallops with dried apricot ($18), and the Rich Man Po’ Boy ($25) with lobster, oysters, and foie gras.
Late Night Menu
We also caught a glimpse of the late-night menu, served after 10 pm. The regular menu is reduced to tots, beef jerky, burgers, an awesome-looking Caesar salad, and whatever a “bag of Crisps + Eggs” means. :)
Thoughts on Bottlefork
The highlights of Bottlefork were easily the cocktails. With their micro happy hour and even regular happy hour specials, they are more than worth going for, even paying full price. The food is an added bonus.
Go to Bottlefork for :: one of the best happy hours in Chicago with excellent cocktails and food worth sticking around for. Notes :: happy hour runs Monday-Thursday, 5-6 pm and 9-10pm, micro happy hour on Fridays 5:15-5:25 pm. Dinner is served nightly Sunday-Thursday 5-10 pm; Friday and Saturday 5-11 pm. Brunch is served on weekends 10:00-2:30 pm. Reservations are available online.