Where else can you visit a place (besides your grandparent’s basement) that houses shelves of vinyl records, serves throwback cocktails, offers fried bologna sandwiches, and plays funky tunes of 70’s flare?
Taking over an entire city block of Morgan between Kinzie & Hubbard, The Brass Monkey was created to be a multi-purpose seventies-themed oasis, with additional (future) expansions in the works. Behind its brass-covered door, a 100-seat restaurant and brass bar with mirrored ceilings, rooms filled with records, old street lamps resembling disco balls, and funky tunes that play in the background, make the atmosphere tastefully groovy, yet not too cliché.
“It feels like Julia Child and Tom Jones hosting a dinner party at Warren Beatty’s pad…“
Spearheaded by Untitled’s beverage director, Mike Karberg, The Brass Monkey’s liquid program was created and inspired around its concept. “There are so many taboo and terrifying cocktails coming out of that time period, but obscure enough where people would see the menu and laugh because they had forgotten all about those.” While the popular Old Fashioned and Manhattan remain classic favorites, other top hits include the Tang made of vodka, spiced pear, lemon and cherry herring, the boozy, tart, and fruity SideSeat Driver, and the stiff and murky colored Chicago River Water cocktail. Although the unusually dark colors may make you hesitant on ordering, just know that no actual river water is used (phew). The cloudy, dark olive pigment is caused by adding a touch of honey and floral crème de violet to its boozy blend of scotch and gin.
While the cocktails were not intended to be paired with the food portion of the menu, the wide array of flavor profiles enable patrons to seamlessly match libations to their meals. While the boozier cocktails pair well with creamy and heavier dishes, such as the cheeseball (a play on cheese and crackers) or the seared fois gras, the lighter and fizzier drinks compliment saltier dishes like the spanish calamari or the old-school pork chop with applesauce.
Despite a notable beverage program and groovy concept, another highlight of The Brass Monkey is its food menu. Contrived and executed by Ryan Wombacher, a brasserie-esc menu is offered along side a “hits of the 70s” list. Revived dishes such as crispy “fish styx,” the popular “baloney sliders,” made with pickles, melted fontina, caramelized onion, and garlic aioli, and the “TV Dinner,” containing juicy A1 glazed (short-rib) meatloaf, simple mashed potatoes with gravy, peppered cream corn, and peas, pay phenomenal homage to their original. Even the gooey and decadent s’more sundae ended the meal with childlike nostalgia.
Having been opened for less than six months and despite its “off-the-map location,” The Brass Monkey continues to grow and evolve. Only time will tell to judge whether or not the groovy years are “here to stay.” As for now, the current space provides an exciting escape to a 70’s oasis and we think its worth the trip.
401 N Morgan St, Chicago, IL 60642