Cheers! Holiday pop-up bar craze makes its way to the suburbs
The owners of Chicago's burger-focused bar Cortland's Garage brought the concept to Arlington Heights in 2015. Now they're bringing another popular Chicago attraction to the suburbs by setting up one of the area's first holiday pop-up bars.
"Once we saw the success it had in downtown Chicago, we thought we have to get one to the suburbs so people can just come a short drive to Arlington Heights," said co-owner Brian Roginski.
The pop-up concept is making a splash this year in the suburbs. Hey Nonny in Arlington Heights is home to a pop-up based on "A Christmas Story," while Glen Ellyn's Reserve 22 hosts a Holiday View pop-up.
At Cortland's Garage through Dec. 31, the pop-up is called Sippin' Santa, and the Christmas-themed tiki bar is decorated with Christmas trees, tropical flowers, lights, ornaments and bamboo lanterns.
All guests are greeted with a lei and can take a photo standing on a surfboard. A special menu features eight themed cocktails served in special glasses you can buy as souvenirs. Options include the $13 Kris Kringle Colada made with dark Jamaica rum, amaro, allspice, coconut cream, and lime and pineapple juices, and the $12 Festivus Flip featuring bourbon, rum, ginger-infused amaro and pomegranate.
The Sippin' Santa concept debuted at New York's Boilermaker in 2015 and is running at 29 locations around the country in 2019. The hybrid theme also helps with the music selection, with Christmas songs mixed with reggae and Jimmy Buffett tunes.
"People really connect with holiday themes," said co-owner Danielle Roginski, Brian's wife. "You get the holiday feel, but you also have this tropical, tiki theme in the middle of cold and dreary weather. It's not going to be your average pop-up bar."
Arlington Heights is also home to a pop-up based on "A Christmas Story," running at Hey Nonny through New Year's Eve. The film will be playing regularly and the space has been decked out with props including a Red Ryder BB gun, a leg lamp and a flagpole for the "triple dog dare" plus plenty of hanging ornaments.
The theme also extends to a special menu including Doggone Turkey, a bacon-wrapped turkey breast, and Ovaltine Hot, hot chocolate spiked with crème de menthe and vanilla vodka.
Themed specials and decor also await at Reserve 22's Holiday View in Glen Ellyn. The bar and restaurant at Village Links Golf Course has strung thousands of lights in the bar area, added Christmas covers to its chairs and covered its pictures with gift wrap.
"It's an over-the-top warm ambience for us to give back to our customers and get in the holiday spirit," said Reserve 22 food and beverage director Brad Chapple.
The pop-up has a life-size Buddy the Elf you can take selfies with and offers guests the chance to give back by dropping off an unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots or buying a bow to decorate the walls for a $1 donation to four charities. Reserve 22 is also serving a menu of festive cocktails such as the Mistletoe Mule, garnished with rosemary and cranberry to resemble the namesake winter plant, or a Christmapoliton, a Cosmopolitan spiced with orange bitters and rosemary.
The pop-up opened on Nov. 19, and Chapple said the response has been great so far.
"It's brought in a lot of people," he said. "Everyone's face lights up as soon as they come in because it's wowing."
If you are willing to make the trip into Chicago, here are a few additional pop-ups worth a visit:
8 Crazy Nights at Graystone Tavern
3441 N. Sheffield Ave., (773) 666-5450, 8crazynightschicago.com. Hanukkah gets its own pop-up bar through Dec. 31. You can celebrate the Jewish festival of lights with traditional Jewish fare including latkes, matzo ball soup and vodka-spiked jelly doughnuts along with $10 themed cocktails such as a chocolate martini served with gelt. The space will be decked out with more than 8,000 blue and white lights plus menorahs, dreidels and lanterns.
Graystone Tavern's Hanukkah pop-up, 8 Crazy Nights, features holiday decorations, latkes and vodka-spiked jelly doughnuts through Dec. 31 in Chicago.
- Courtesy of Graystone Tavern
Elf'd Up at Stretch Bar & Grill
3484 N. Clark St., (773) 755-3980, elfdup.com. The second annual tribute to the film "Elf" is decked out with 1,000 elves, a 10-foot Christmas tree, and wreaths and lights. The bar is serving themed food and drink specials, including $10-$18 seasonal drafts poured in giant elf boots and a Buddy Burger served on a green bun. Teams of four can compete in movie trivia at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 and 18. And Buddy the Elf will make appearances between 9 p.m. and midnight Thursday through Saturday. The pop-up runs through mid-January.
Frosty's Christmas Bar
809 W. Evergreen Ave., (312) 535-3355, welovefrostys.com. Billed as the largest Christmas bar in Chicago, the third annual pop-up features four levels decorated with life-size toy soldiers, wreaths and ribbons, two dance floors where DJs spin holiday music and three bars serving seasonal cocktails. The space features plenty of spots for Instagram photos and entertainment from singing Santas every hour. The pop-up runs daily through Jan. 5.
Jack Frost Winter Village & Christmas Tree Farm
1455 N. Elston Ave., (312) 800-2777, jackswintervillage.com. Choose from more than 1,000 Christmas trees and get a huge helping of holiday cheer at the two-acre space, which features three bars serving hot chocolate and cocktails, ice skating, bumper cars, food trucks, ice-carving competitions and photos with Santa. The pop-up runs through Jan. 5.
3505 N. Clark St., (833) 967-2682, santababybar.com
Visit themed rooms including Santa's workshop, a gingerbread village and an alpine ski lodge while enjoying shareable cocktails, frozen shots, spiked hot chocolate, milkshakes and seasonal beers. The spot also hosts weekly holiday movie screenings, Christmas music karaoke and appearances by Santa through Jan. 6.
Tinseltown at Pink Squirrel
2414 N. Milwaukee Ave., (773) 904-8185, pinksquirrelbar.com
Through early January, the retro cocktail bar will be covered with wrapping paper, ornaments and other decorations and serve themed milkshakes, cocktails and shots like the $11 Christmas Morning, a blend of rye, coffee liqueur, ice cream and cinnamon.