You just got a fantastic haircut, if you do say so yourself, and you know that no matter how many instructions and products you’re given to help “recreate it at home,” tomorrow it will probably look like you did it in the dark wearing giant Mickey Mouse gloves. So you want to go someplace where people other than you, your iPhone camera, and your roommate’s ferret will be able to appreciate it. You need a spot that’s fun and a little (or a lot) sceney - and you want to eat something good, too. Try any of these 14 places.
Pacific Standard Time is a very large, very busy restaurant in River North. In the center of the space there’s a big round bar, and if you sit there it will give everyone a 360-degree view of how great your hair looks. Which is convenient, because it’s hard to reserve a table in the dining room, but the bar area is pretty accessible for walk-ins. Get a wood-fired pizza or the glazed chicken wings. FYI, the latter are sticky, so resist the temptation to run your hands through your hair while eating.
Much like your printed-out Pinterest board of celebrity haircuts, Bar Siena is on the bubble of being obnoxious, but the great food makes up for it. The space is always loud and crowded, with a huge bar dominating the first floor and a larger dining area upstairs that’s generally full of groups. You should get a pasta or pizza, like the pillowy gnocchi or the delicious prosciutto and fig pie - and if, after dinner, you want to give your great hair a second outing, head to Bar Siena’s enclosed takeout window (Bombobar) for dessert. It has great Italian donuts and gelato, and is always full of people, too.
This West Town spot manages to feel fun and cool without looking like it was designed as a massive selfie backdrop. The food is German-inspired, so you’ll find lots of pork dishes, creative versions of spaetzle, and vegetable dishes that are designed to send you straight to bed. It also has a nice bar area, and plays great funk and hip hop - very enjoyable things to swing your hair to.
Because of its location in River North, Siena Tavern is a popular spot for everyone from locals to tourists who Googled “Fabio Top Chef restaurant.” In other words, it’s pretty much as sceney as this neighborhood gets, but that doesn’t mean the food isn’t good. All of the Italian dishes here are tasty, so you can’t go wrong no matter what you order. Start with a pasta, and then get a creative pizza, like one with pear and prosciutto or roasted brussels sprouts and sausage. Then stay for the DJ set. Or just leave whenever your hair starts to go flat.
From the guy wearing an earpiece at the elevator, to the twinkly-light-and-plant-filled space, to the dressed-up people, there’s no mistaking that Aba is a scene. There are also two busy, large bars, and a huge rooftop patio (complete with seasonal glass domes that will make sure to protect your hair from the elements). Most things on the Mediterranean menu are meant to be shared, so you can come here with friends and split six types of hummus, plus five varieties of kebabs. When you’re done, use the skewers as hairpins.
Pub Royale is a busy pub in Wicker Park that has creative food and tasty cocktails (including an assortment of Pimm’s Cups). It’s decorated with Indian-inspired art, and much of the food has Indian influences as well - like a chicken tikka roll, gobi manchurian, and salt cod samosas. Since they don’t take reservations, everyone else waiting for a table with you will have plenty of opportunity to admire your hair.
You’re feeling it tonight, but not to the point that you want to have dinner in a borderline club. So check out Eleven Eleven, a West Loop bar that’s cool but relatively relaxed. They have a long wine list, and if you want, the bartenders will talk to you extensively about the selection. But there’s also a very good food menu, with options like cheese and charcuterie, and a collard green grilled cheese that’s delicious, but will make you need to check your teeth before smiling at anyone.
This is the kind of place where you could stomp around like you had your own personal wind machine and no one would think twice about it. Beatnik is all about atmosphere, and letting you eat things like veal sweetbread kebabs in a jungle full of tropical plants while a DJ plays. It’s perfect for cocktails, small plates, and pretending you’re on a movie set. Unlike on a movie set, though, you won’t have someone constantly touching up your hair, so thankfully there is no actual tropical humidity.
Etta is a BCR (Big Chicago Restaurant). That means it’s popular, and you can expect it to be busy pretty much all the time. So it might be hard to get a table without a reservation, but there are two large bars here (one on the first floor and one upstairs) that are both great for hanging out. Order one of the delicious housemade pastas and a pizza, then make friends with whoever’s sitting next to you.
The crowd at Parlor in the West Loop seems to be more interested in drinking than eating (but the wood-fired pizza is actually pretty good), so this place is actually one of the busiest spots in the neighborhood. It has two patios (one of which is enclosed and heated in the winter) and a very active bar area. So come here if you want a club-like atmosphere for your new hairstyle, but don’t feel like dealing with a bouncer wearing a suit and a well-honed glare.
This River North spot looks like a dive bar, but it has fantastic food, and usually feels like a party. This is the kind of spot you hit up spontaneously after a successful visit to the salon, when you have a great blowout but are still wearing sweatpants. Ideally you’ll also be pretty hungry, because everything from the Nashville hot fried duck livers to the deep fried Polish topped with truffled onions is great.
You really can’t go wrong with The Delta in Wicker Park, no matter what kind of hair day you’re having. It’s an enjoyable, laid-back place with good cocktails and a short menu of Southern small plates (like pork ribs and simmered tamales). The hallway-shaped space leads to a great back patio when it’s nice out, but the busy bar section makes up the majority of the restaurant. Unless it really is beautiful weather, that’s the best place to eat, drink, and hang out while you’re here.
This is a two-level brew pub in the West Loop with a short menu of DIY tacos (all of which come with fresh tortillas and your choice of meat), and beers that go really well with the food. The downstairs is low-key, but the second floor is more upbeat, and ideal for cocktails, big groups, and maximum hair appreciation. You’ll find big tables and a nice view of Randolph, which people can look at when they’re done showering your brand new look with compliments.