Lettuce Entertain You Opens Its First Wine Bar in Chicago

by Lisa Elbert, Tastemaker in Residence & Food & Wine writer

photo by Jeff Marini

photo by Jeff Marini

Bar Ramone opened in the city's River North neighborhood on Thursday, August 30, 2018. 

Two guys walk into a bar. The bar is theirs. They built it. It’s a wine bar, and the two guys are Ryan Arnold and Richard Hanauer of Chicago-based restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You. Arnold and Hanauer are both divisional wine directors for multiple restaurants, but Bar Ramone, which opened Thursday night in River North, brought the two wine guys together for their first full-on collaboration.

Bar Ramone is among a new wave of wine bars where the lists are constantly changing, the service is casual yet soigné, and the experience is engaging and fun. “We’re in jeans and tee shirts, listening to The Clash and serving wine,” says Arnold. “We’ve got proper glassware and the wines at proper temperatures, but it’s convivial and comfortable—there are about 100 wacky light fixtures, and the playlist can be anything from Kanye to The Ramones (no relation).”

It’s an intimate, 80-seat space with a highly curated list of 100 labels—20 of which are available by the glass. It's a reflection of who Arnold and Hanauer are as sommeliers and as consumers.

“It’s a story of two people who’ve been in wine for 15 years and are still working at high-end restaurants,” says Arnold, “but this is where we want to hang out when we’re not at work, and we hope our peers in the industry feel the same.”Their styles are polarizing but their Juice Nerd levels are aligned, which results in an approachable wine bar without pretense where you can geek out about wine with the geeks themselves, or not. You can have old-world classics from familiar producers, or esoteric wines from grapes you’ve never heard of. You can order wine by the glass or by the porrón.

photo by Jeff Marini

photo by Jeff Marini

“You can spend $1000 on a bottle or you can spend $50, all within 100 labels,” says Arnold. The world is your oyster! Except instead of oysters, chefs Hisanobu Osaka and Doug Psaltis shower you in jamón serrano, manchego, and pan con tomate, which is nothing short of a dream.

Bar Ramone is fun in a Sam Malone kind of way and serious in a Niles Crane kind of way, and it's probably the only place in Chicago where you can drink Selosse out of a porrón… and everybody knows your name. First come, first served.