First Taste: Tiny Lounge


If it weren’t for the Chicago Transit Authority, Colleen Flaherty and I wouldn’t be having this conversation. We wouldn’t be rehashing 2006, the year the CTA unceremoniously demolished her bar, Tiny Lounge, to make way for a new station.

If Tiny Lounge had been just another dive bar for old guys, nobody would have made much of a fuss when it closed. But as always seems to be the case when the government tears something down, Tiny happened to be a one-of-a-kind type place. It was intimate and sultry, with deep, heavily padded booths and perfectly icy Martinis. It was a throwback, a bar where the music never got too loud and where televisions were never welcome. To stumble upon it was to feel like you’d just uncovered the city’s best-kept secret. This was a spot that could make sophisticates out of even the most terrible blowhards; that had great cocktails long before cocktail mania become trendy; and—not surprisingly—customers so loyal that they were borderline fanatics.

Of course, when the city shut the place down it became even more of a legend. And that’s why Flaherty is nervous. Three years later, she’s reopening Tiny Lounge in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. And she’s terrified her old regulars won’t like its new incarnation.

And the first time I venture into the new bar, I can see why she’s worried: In its new location Tiny has lost some of its old intimacy. It sparkles with newness and slick blond woods that make the place feel contemporary, not classic. Based on first impressions it appears to be a pale imitation of the original.

But wait. Aren’t those the same cushy booths? And when the lights are dimmed the place achieves the same seductive atmosphere I remember—the kind that inspires whispering and long, inappropriate glances at strangers. Most importantly, the drinks are the same. The cocktails take a while to construct, just as they should. And when they finally arrive and you’re holding a perfect, chilly sidecar in your hand, any doubts about the authenticity of the place fade. Yeah, it looks new. Hell, it is new. But a bar can’t make a drink this good unless it’s got an old soul.

Tiny Lounge 4352 N. Leavitt St., Chicago (773-463-0396;

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