Hospitality giant Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises opens its decidedly small project Bar Ramone on Thursday night. Here are the five things you need to know about the cozy wine bar sandwiched between Frontera Grill and Bub City.
1) It’s the smallest concept Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has opened in a long, long time.
“It’s tiny,” said Ryan Arnold, who, with Richard Hanauer (one of Food & Wine’s Sommeliers of the Year in 2015), oversees the wine program. “The whole thing is the size of one of the bars at Aba (Lettuce’s other summer opening). It’s a real adjustment, going from there to here.”
Bar Ramone’s 80 seats are distributed along a long bar, a handful of two- and four-top tables and exactly one booth. “It’s close,” Arnold said. “You’re gonna get to know your neighbor.”
2) You don’t need sommelier cred to “get” this place.
This is Lettuce’s first-ever wine bar, and the goal is accessibility. “No pretense. You don’t have to talk tannins; you don’t have to be quiet,” said Arnold, confirming that the music level will be lively. “The more we can get people drinking wine, the better, and the way to do that here is balance. You’ll be able to drink a low-alcohol (Spanish) txakoli — super fun, not complex, not a wine of contemplation — and then perhaps a classic-vintage wine from Tuscany.”
Similarly, the menu, created by chefs Doug Psaltis and Hisanabu Osaka, consists mostly of small plates informed by, but not beholden to, Spanish tradition. Look for Basque pintxos, crudos such as Japanese icefish with chile de arbol, duck confit poutine and “bloody mary” shrimp.
3) The wine list is short and constantly evolving — by design and by necessity.
“Nothing is static on the wine list — we’ll be constantly experimenting,” Arnold said. “We have 100 wines (about 20 by the glass), but we have very little storage. Of our 100 bottles, some we have only one of. So if you see it, enjoy it. That wine might not be there tomorrow.”
4) Consider dressing in dark, or burgundy-colored, clothing.
A few wines will be served in porrons, which are wine pitchers designed for wine to be poured directly into your mouth. It’s pretty cool once you get the hang of it, but spills are common for first-timers.
5) There are no reservations, and there is no Ramone.
“No reservations, as of now,” Arnold said, leaving open the possibility of change. And Ramone? “It’s just a name that Rich (Melman) had in his head,” Arnold said.
Bar Ramone, 441 N. Clark St., 312-985-6909. Dinner Tuesday to Sunday; barramone.com