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Kumiko, Chicago’s Sophisticated Japanese Drinking Den, Ranks Among World’s 100 Best Bars

Plus, a Tribune columnist urges haters to channel their feelings into food drive donations

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A woman stands behind a bar holding a cocktail shaker
Julia Momose of Kumiko, now officially one of the world’s best bars.
Nick Fochtman

Kumiko, Chicago’s elegant Japanese dining bar in West Loop, has earned a spot as no. 61 on this year’s World’s 100 Best Bars list. The three-year-old drinking destination from star bartender Julia Momose and chef Noah Sandoval of two-Michelin-starred Oriole is the only Windy City spot to snag an award from World’s 50 Best Bars, owned by U.K.-based William Reed Business Media.

The accolade, first reported by Crain’s, comes just four months after Kumiko reopened to indoor patrons for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Fluctuating safety regulations starting in March 2020 prompted Momose to shift toward a takeout-only menu of casual Japanese comfort food and cocktails to go until August, when the bar welcomed customers back inside for a tweaked menu of bespoke cocktails with bite-sized food pairings, dubbed “little luxuries.”

Since its debut in 2018, Kumiko has been widely recognized for its unusual and exacting approach to drinking culture: Time listed it among its “World’s 100 Greatest Places.” Momose has also made a noteworthy impact on Chicago’s bar industry during the pandemic as a leading advocate for legalizing to-go cocktails, successfully lobbying state government to help bars like hers fight for survival during shutdowns. In the meantime, her book The Way of the Cocktail hit bookstore shelves this fall.

Kikko, the bar’s basement dining room, remains closed for the time being. It earned a Michelin star in 2019 under the direction of previous chef Mariya Russell, who before the pandemic relocated to Hawai’i with husband and sous chef Garrett Russell.

Tribune columnist leverages controversy into food for the hungry

Tribune columnist Rex Huppke, who leans toward the left, knows that his opinions are controversial and has decided to capitalize on the hatred for his fourth annual Insult-A-Columnist Holiday Food Drive to benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository. (If only more columnists did this!) Haters can donate through the “Rex Stinks” link, while fans can go through “Rex Rocks.” The goal is a combined $150,000, though last year’s drive raised $250,000. So far, Team “Rex Rocks” is winning by a $40,000 margin.

Andros Taverna hosts fundraiser for sommelier’s medical bills

Andros Taverna, a Greek restaurant in Logan Square, will be hosting a fundraiser this Monday, December 13, from 6 to 9 p.m. to raise money for sommelier Bobby Joe Rinaldo, who has recently been diagnosed with stage 2 brain cancer and will need to go on medical leave while he undergoes chemotherapy. Bobbypalooza will feature mezze and the staff’s first attempt at a black truffle gyro, Greek wines and specialty cocktails, and an art show. Donations are also being accepted through a GoFundMe page.

A look back at a legendary Chicago nightclub

In this week’s Reader, music writer Leor Galil takes a deep dive into the history of Neo, the Lincoln Park nightclub where DJs spun alternative music of all kinds from 1979 until it closed in 2015, including a quick detour into the connection between the club and Keanu Reeves’s character in the Matrix movies. “This story won’t count every ring in Neo’s trunk either, but I still think it’s worth telling now,” Galil writes, “not least because I see traces of the club’s legacy wherever I look.”

Gaming board announces new casinos in Waukegan and south suburbs

The Illinois Gaming Board announced its yesterday, after months of deliberation, that it has chosen two new casino sites, ABC-7 reports. American Place Casino in Waukegan will be a luxury facility with a helipad and a 20-room mansion for VIPs and will bring 1,900 jobs to the small Lake County city. Wind Creek Casino on the border of Homewood and East Hazel Crest in the south suburbs will contain a 70,000-square-foot gaming facility and a 252-room hotel and will provide 800 jobs.

Andros Taverna

2542 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 365-1900 Visit Website

Kumiko

630 West Lake Street, , IL 60661 (312) 285-2912 Visit Website