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A barroom with hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, and dark wood tables. On the right, the bar, with a dark wood top and shelving and tile on the front, with plants for decor
Moonflower opened earlier this month in a former sports bar in Portage Park.
Garrett Sweet/Eater Chicago

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Inside Moonflower, the Northwest Side’s New Plant-Filled Cocktail Bar

Unique ingredients breed globally-inspired drinks and snacks in Portage Park

Cocktail bars are scarce on the Northwest Side, but Moonflower, which recently opened in Portage Park will help fill the void. Founded by three industry veterans, Moonflower offers craft cocktails with unusual ingredients, such as Milkis, a milk-based soda from South Korea, and Goldsaft, a German sugar beet syrup, plus snacks and an extensive soul music soundtrack.

The three owners, Zach Rivera, Christina Chae, and Marvin Boeving, all met while working at the Machine Hospitality Group (Headquarters Beercade, Machine), and decided to open a bar together. Their landlords, Marcus and Robert Sulejmani, offered them a break on the rent on the space formerly occupied by their own bar Hops & Barley. Carlos Cruz, the former culinary director for 16” On Center (Dusek’s, Saint Lou’s Assembly), signed on as a consulting chef.

A barroom with wood floors, exposed brick walls, and dark wood tables. Plants hang near the windows and sit on shelves. The sun streams in from the left.
Befitting its botanical name, Moonflower is decorated with lots of plants.
A peach-colored back wall with a garland on a white background. There are low shelves with dishes and plants. Two pillar tables made of light wood are in the foreground.

The bar bears the stamp of each of the three owners. Many of the plants used in the decor come from Chae’s personal collection. The menu contains sandwiches because Boeving is a fan. And Rivera, whose father was a jazz drummer, assembled the Spotify playlist that customers hear in the background. The cocktail ingredients reflect things they grew up eating and drinking: Boeving is from Germany, Rivera is Puerto Rican American, and Chae was born in South Korea.

Guajillo margarita, chartreuse-colored liquid in a margarita glass rimmed with salt and garnished with a lime
Negroni spritz: reddish-brown liquid over ice in an old fashioned glass garnished with an orange slice
Seeing Green: milky light green liquid in a highball glass with ice and a straw
A Manhattan: golden liquid in an old fashioned glass with ice and a cherry garnish, with a finger overhead placing the cherry

Clockwise from upper left: Guajillo Margarita, Negroni Spritz, Pretty Good Manhattan, Seeing Green.

A woman in a facemask pours a milky brown cocktail from a shaker through a strainer into a coupe glass
Co-owner Christina Chae pours a cocktail.

There’s also an extensive food menu with soups, dips, salads, and sandwiches.

A bowl of potato leek soup with crispy onions, lardons, and green garnish
A newspaper-lined tray with bowls of chips and crackers and crudites and two smaller bowls of dip
A chopped salad with greens, vegetables, gouda, and green goddess dressing
A grilled patty melt with fries on a newspaper-lined tray

Clockwise from upper left: potato leek soup; pimento dip and artichoke and pickle dip with crudites, chips, and crackers; patty melt; chopped salad with green goddess dressing.

Moonflower is just the beginning of a larger project. Later this winter, Rivera, Chae, and Boeving plan to open a second cocktail bar in the basement called Nightshade. It will be more intimate, and both the drinks and the music will be more experimental: corn chip and poblano martinis and a gin-based cocktail with coconut, purple rice, and lime, and a lot of deep cuts on the sound system.

Moonflower, 4359 N. Milwaukee, Open 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday.


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