A medieval royalty-themed cocktail lounge with a sense of humor is moving into the Lincoln Park space formerly occupied by neighborhood bar Sterch’s. The latest project from Dino Vulpitta and son Brandon, owners of Loop karaoke lounge Brando’s Speakeasy, King of Cups is slated to start serving Thursday, May 9 at 2238 N. Lincoln Avenue.
A grand opening celebration will run through May 11. Customers can expect original cocktails from beverage director Danny Jahnke, a performance from the Royal Tease burlesque ensemble, and more surprise entertainment.
The 1,000 square-foot space seats 60 and includes an elevated throne and gold-and-maroon color palette to underscore the aristocratic theme. The walls feature royal portraits in ornate frames and monitors that rotate through images of kings and queens of all types, including Queen Victoria, Elvis, and Lady Gaga. In a neighborhood packed with “frat bars,” Vulpitta said he hopes the lounge’s Rococo-style design and creative beverage list will draw a local crowd looking for a cultural experience sans sporting events.
The cocktail menu includes 20 drinks with easily-recognizable ingredients like watermelon and beets. There’s a special section for swizzle drinks, attractive tiki-style cocktails made with crushed ice. Customers can try a beverage with banana-infused mezcal or apple-infused scotch, or Jahnke’s favorite, a bell pepper margarita that diners can spice up with a side of habanero tincture. A full drink list (which will include zero-proof cocktails) isn’t available yet, but Jahnke said all cocktails will be available Thursday for the opening.
Despite the lounge’s luxe appearance, Vulpitta said he wants to create an unpretentious atmosphere where customers feel comfortable asking questions and making suggestions regarding cocktail preferences and flavor profile. Devin Kinder of Hollow Leg will host a weekly cocktail class and each month a student cocktail will appear on a secret drink list created by Kinder. King of Cups won’t offer a full food menu but customers can devour upscale bar snacks including stuffed olives and charcuterie plates, as well as treats from as-yet-unnamed restaurants and businesses in the area.
Dubbed Chicago’s first “spirit bar” by its owners, King of Cups plays on the dual meaning of “spirit” with a focus on both mixology and the returning popularity of tarot readings. The lounge will host live music events every Thursday, as well as a variety of performances from local singers, acrobats, and classical burlesque entertainers (but no stripteases). Believers can even try to get a peek into the future with tarot readings, offered daily.
Vulpitta opened Brando’s 12 years ago as a vintage-style tavern that grew into a karaoke lounge after local performers began stopping in for impromptu performances. Chicago has seen tarot-friendly cocktail bars before at the Rookery’s white witch-themed Fleetwood Mac pop up in 2018.
King of Cups will open to the public this Thursday in Lincoln Park. Stay tuned for a full drink menu and news of the opening.