Three Dots and a Dash: Morse code for bliss

Three Dots and a Dash: Morse code for bliss

Chicago Reader |
Oct 29, 2013

You can describe mixologist Paul McGee in a number of different ways: cultishly beloved, iconically bearded, preternaturally talented when it comes to slinging booze. Just don’t call him a sellout.

When it was announced in early 2012 that McGee would leave trailblazing Logan Square cocktail bar the Whistler for a then unnamed lounge underneath a soon-to-open upscale barbecue joint in River North (both bankrolled by behemoth restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You), the news was likened to the sound of “a thousand coupes shattering.” This wasn’t hyperbole—or at least, not by much.

The Whistler, in addition to serving innovative and imaginative drinks to the Warby Parker set, functioned, and functions still, as a breeding ground for experimental bands (see the Whistler’s record label), a showcase for DIY art (see the Whistler’s mini storefront gallery), and a superpacked underground dance party for the LGBTQ crowd (see the Whistler’s monthly Slo ‘Mo series).

River North, of course, was and is the antithesis of those things.

But here’s the deal: While there’s only one Paul McGee—and while Logan Square scenesters were understandably distraught about their favorite bartender crossing over to the other side—there are plenty of hip, able drink makers who remain rooted in that neighborhood. In fact, some might say there are a few too many of them there, and that it’s time to share the artisanally bittered love.

A spot like Three Dots and a Dash could never have opened in Logan Square, anyway. (Well, at least not for another, oh, three years, when all the current residents are displaced by transplants from . . . River North.) McGee’s cosmopolitan tiki bar is suavity meets Disney—007 with a dash of Pirates of the Caribbean. Is that a bad thing? No, it’s not.

As a River North interloper, you might be shocked to find that Three Dots has only one open table at 6:45 PM—on a Monday. You might be underwhelmed by its menu of one-note (that note being sticky-sweet) bar snacks. You might be overwhelmed by the business-attired party next to you partaking of the $385 “treasure chest” (McGee’s answer to bottle service, which serves six to eight and includes a neon-lit bottle of Dom poured into the liquor-filled vessel, the contents of which are sucked through cartoonishly long straws). But who cares about any of that. You came here for two things: to sip transcendent drinks and revel in tiki chic. And on those fronts, Three Dots delivers.

The menu offers 16 cocktails—eight classics, sourced to various historic tiki bars and/or tiki culture’s forefathers, and eight modern cocktails, sourced to McGee. In an attempt to cover as much territory as financially feasible, we partook of two classics and two moderns: one rum-based, one rye-rum combo, one gin-based, and one tequila-genever combo. To make sure we made it to work the next day, we allowed only two of the four drinks we ordered to bear the menu’s skull icon, which denotes drinks of “impressive strength.”

Round one: Jet Pilot (an impressive-strength classic hailing from the Luau Restaurant in Beverly Hills) vs. Poipu Beach Boogie Board (impressive strength, modern). Both were sweet up front, followed by alternating and balanced layers of acidity and bitterness. Both were delicious. I figured the Jet Pilot would be the more complex of the two—three rums, lime, cinnamon, grapefruit, falernum, absinthe, and Angostura bitters—as compared to the Poipu Beach’s slightly more pared down mix of rye, overproof rum, guava, maraschino, grenadine, pineapple, and lemon. But the layering of flavors in the Poipu Beach was more distinct, the overall taste cleaner than that of the Jet Pilot, and not as sweet as the ingredients suggest. You win, McGee.

Round two: Saturn (a regular-strength classic created by 1967 IBA World Cocktail Champion J. “Popo” Galsini) vs. Aloha, Mexico (regular strength, modern). We opted for the Aloha because at that point in the evening we were reaching maximum fructose capacity, albeit as much from the food as from round one. It was our fault for ordering the coconut shrimp (what did we expect?), though we wrongly assumed the Thai fried chicken with garlic-chile sauce would present a much-craved dose of salt and heat (it provided neither). And the Aloha’s more palate-cleansing components—tequila, genever, pineapple, mint, tamarind, and hellfire bitters—positioned it for what I assumed would be a flavor-profile advantage over the Saturn—navy-strength gin, passion fruit, lemon, falernum, almond. Oh, but the Saturn! This classic truly wowed us. There was perfect calibration between the ingredients. These cocktails are not small, and the Saturn continued to intrigue through the last sip. It was by far the best in show.

But the show isn’t even a quarter of the way over! While my budget prohibits exploration of the treasure chest, I intend to soon sample one or more of the three large-format punches, accessibly priced between $45 and $65 and suggested for sharing among a group of two to five imbibers. I also plan on drinking my way through the other 12 classic and modern cocktails in as short an order as possible. I’ll take any excuse I can to bask in Three Dots’ dazzling thatched-and-bambooed environs, especially as we enter these dismal months.

Yes, I’ll be spending an inordinate amount of time and money in River North. But that doesn’t make me a sellout either.

Media Contact

Emily Clark pr@leye.com 773-878-7340

You May Also Like...

In The Restaurants
A Gift Guide for the Food Lover in Your Life
Jun 1, 2018

Whether a birthday, graduation or any other of the countless holidays, we're here to make selecting…

read more >
In The Restaurants
The Future of Tiki at Three Dots and a Dash
May 29, 2018

Three Dots and a Dash's Beverage Director, Kevin Beary, has been busy. While running the bar…

read more >
In The Restaurants
James Beard Eats Week 2018
Apr 17, 2018

James Beard Eats Week is back! From April 27-May 7 show your support of aspiring Chicago culinary…

read more >
In The Restaurants
The Wait Is Over – The Three Dots and a Dash Mug Shop is Now Open
Apr 6, 2018

Looking for your tiki fix but can’t make it to Three Dots and a Dash? Not to worry! The online mug…

read more >
In The Restaurants
This One’s For Our Indecisive Diners
Feb 26, 2018

For all of you indecisive order-ers out there - the "I want to order one of everything on the menu"…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Lettuce in Love: Weddings with Lettuce Parties
Feb 13, 2018

It's almost Valentine's Day and love is in the air. Believe it or not it's a tale as old as time (or…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Where to go on Valentine’s Day 2018
Feb 4, 2018

Have you made your Valentine's Day plans yet? It's right around the corner and there's lots of…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Valentine’s Day Dishes Designed for Two
Feb 1, 2018

February 14 marks a day when it's appropriate, if not preferred, to share your food "Lady and the…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Our Chef’s Predictions and Resolutions for 2018
Jan 2, 2018

Our chefs aren't psychic but they do have a finger on the pulse of what's on the horizon for the New…

read more >
How To
Gift Guide: Beyond a Bottle of Wine
Dec 15, 2017

Your mother told you this a million times and it still holds true today - never go to a party…

read more >
How To
The Perfect Party Appetizers
Dec 12, 2017

A well-crafted appetizer is the perfect way to make sure your guests won't go hungry so you can…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Best Spots for Group Dining
Nov 25, 2017

You finally got the whole crew to agree on the same day and time, now you just have to find the…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Late Night & Live Music with Lettuce
Nov 9, 2017

Night owls rejoice - select Lettuce restaurants and nightclubs offer everything from late-night food…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Time to Party! Three Dots and a Dash’s New Cocktail Menu Launches
Oct 26, 2017

Three Dots and a Dash’s new cocktail menu is dropping on November 2, and you better believe it's…

read more >
How To
Recipe: Three Dots and a Dash Wiki Wiki
Oct 4, 2017

The Wiki Wiki at Three Dots and a Dash is a modern take on a tiki classic. Try this recipe for the…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Where to Eat & Drink in October
Oct 2, 2017

Throughout the month of October, Lettuce Entertain You restaurants are donating a portion of…

read more >
In The Restaurants
New Season, New Tiki Cocktails
Jun 21, 2017

Fresh season calls for fresh, new tiki cocktails (and mugs, of course). Introducing the new Three…

read more >
How To
Kevin Beary’s Perfected Falernum Recipe
Oct 27, 2016

It's tiki time! Three Dots and a Dash's Beverage Director, Kevin Beary, developed this Falernum…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Lettuce Date Night
Aug 15, 2016

 

read more >
In The Restaurants
A Burger a Day in the Month of May
May 15, 2016

Let’s be honest. We don’t need a month dedicated to something that is celebrated every other day…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Take a Tour of Tiki’s Brand New Menu
Apr 15, 2016

Lettuce Entertain You’s Beverage Director Julian Cox and the team at Three Dots and a Dash is…

read more >

Recent Posts

How To
Learn How To Salsa Dance at Nacional 27
Jul 18, 2018

Did you know that every Wednesday evening at Nacional 27 , you have the opportunity to learn how…

read more >
How To
Try a Chicago Dog with Beaujolais for National Hot Dog Day
Jul 18, 2018

Say Oui to National Hot Dog Day! Today we celebrate the best hot dog variation in existence, Chicago…

read more >
How To
How to Make Ema’s Avocado & Sweet Pea Spread with Vegetable Crudite
Jul 17, 2018

Here's a great recipe to add a little green to your summer BBQ spread. Slice up your favorite…

read more >
Openings
3 Reasons Why You Should Check Out the Newest Wow Bao
Jul 16, 2018

Whether you work near Chicago's Magnificent Mile or you're more of a frequent shopper, you may have…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Because Mac & Cheese Deserves Its Own Holiday
Jul 14, 2018

In celebration of National Mac & Cheese day on July 14, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Listen Up: The 2018 Curated Windy City Smokeout Playlist Is Here
Jul 11, 2018

This year's Windy City Smokeout music lineup sees up-and-comers, seasoned stars and downright…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Here’s Where to Happy Hour
Jul 10, 2018

It's 5 o'clock somewhere! Here are all the happy hour deals at select Lettuce Entertain You…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Sip on RPM Italian’s Tableside Gin & Tonics
Jul 9, 2018

There are new Gin & Tonics in town at RPM Italian in Washington, D.C. and RPM Steak in Chicago,…

read more >
How To
Sip on Big Bowl’s Blackberry-Rosemary Sangria
Jul 9, 2018

Entertaining your crew at home? Try making Big Bowl's Blackberry, Rosemary Sangria recipe for…

read more >
In The Restaurants
The 2018 Windy City Smokeout Menu Lineup
Jul 7, 2018

Listen closely... Is that a guitar riff you hear or is it your stomach growlin'? Either way, we've…

read more >
How To
How To Win (2X, 3X, 4X even 5X Points) All Summer Long
Jul 5, 2018

Everyone we know loves summer and everyone we know also loves to win. So what if we told you that…

read more >
In The Restaurants
All The Reasons Why We Love Fried Chicken
Jul 4, 2018

Fact: there's never a bad time for fried chicken. Grab it on your way to the beach, order it up for…

read more >
Lettuce Consulting Group

Grow Your Business

Learn More
Career Opportunities

Join Our Team

Search Jobs
Latest Articles

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign Up Now

Lettuce on Instagram

Checkout our feed @lettuceentertainyou!