When new owners took over three years ago, Bar Louie was a franchise of neighborhood dive bars. They decided to overhaul the nationwide chain by upgrading the food and drinks. The change also marked a local resurgence as Bar Louie locations were added to Holiday Inns in Chicago, Mount Prospect, Skokie and the renovated Oakbrook Terrace location.
Motif: A bank of TVs hanging above the bar shows sports games and UFC fights for no cover. Rounded booths along the sides offer a quieter experience away from the screens. The space features dark wood tables, padded leather chairs and sepia-toned photos of musicians and people drinking. A planter-bordered patio has marble tables with black wicker chairs. Bar Louie hosts themed parties every month complete with a DJ, drink specials and plenty of decorations. The next is a Think Pink breast cancer awareness bash on Thursday, Oct. 18, where 25 percent of the proceeds will go to charity.
Bar Louie17W350 22nd St., Oakbrook Terrace, (630) 478-8040, barlouieamerica.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Crowd: Since opening in October 2011, Bar Louie has become a hangout for hotel guests and locals. The hotel is relatively isolated, which makes the bar a great option for business travelers looking for a break between meetings. Bar Louie also brings in plenty of shoppers from the nearby Oakbrook Center. The average customer age is between 28 and 45, with an almost even split between men and women and hotel guests and locals. The mix means that jeans are as welcome as suits. The bar often gets busy for happy hour, with drinkers lingering for dinner, and then gets a second rush from the late-night crowd. Sunday and Monday football games bring in plenty of fans, who enjoy the half-price appetizers and $3 Bud Light drafts.
Service: Our server was friendly and enthusiastic about the bar's drink menu, happy to share his favorites and explain the cocktails.
Food: Burgers are Bar Louie's most popular dish, especially on the chain's long-running Tuesday $1 burger nights. The menu stays consistent across locations, so you can get favorites like the Mario and Luigi sandwiches and the Vesuvio melt at any Bar Louie. The chain's updated menu goes beyond the standard bar fare, with new popular dishes including sesame-encrusted ahi tuna and Tuscan chicken pasta.
Liquid consumption: Bar Louie prides itself on its cocktail and martini menu, with drinks made with fresh-squeezed juices and fruit. The Honeydew martini is one of the most popular, a bright green blend of rum, Midori and pineapple juice that smells great and tastes just like the namesake melon. The mixed berry mojito offers plenty of mint for a fizzy and not-too-sweet sipper. The Sailor's Mojito, which uses Sailor Jerry spiced rum and ginger liqueur in the standard recipe, is smooth and mellow. Our favorite was the Kiss My Azteca, which tastes like a cold alcoholic version of Mexican hot chocolate topped with cinnamon whipped cream that works really well with the afterburn from the cayenne pepper. The bar also has a solid selection of craft beers including Delirium Tremens, Goose Island Matilda and New Holland Dragon's Milk, with a different brew on special each day. Drink specials include $5 domestic buckets Wednesdays and $5 martinis Thursdays.
Parking: There are plenty of free spots in the hotel lot.
Overall: The hotel's guests are lucky to have such a great spot just downstairs, but for the rest of us Bar Louie is worth a bit of a drive.