7 Special Wine Bars in Chicago You Must Visit

7 Special Wine Bars in Chicago You Must Visit


Joe’s Imports

Just west of Chicago’s Loop is the renowned foodie hub known as the West Loop and Fulton Market District. Here you’ll find an intimate and inviting European-style wine bar and restaurant, Joe’s Imports. Joe’s offers a curated selection of unique wines inspired by Partner and Wine Director Joe Fiely’s travels.

Joe’s goal is to take each guest on a vacation in a glass, and he does – from Piemonte to the Douro! In fact, many of the wines offered can only found at Joe’s and nowhere else in the States. He’s also crafted a food menu with Chef Scott Harris, CEO of the Francesca Restaurant Group, which showcases the best dishes from his favorite wine regions to pair alongside the local wines. One of my favorite features of the food and wine pairings is the suggestion of both a white and a red (or sometimes even a rosé) option to pair with each dish!

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Joe’s Imports is open for lunch

Joe’s Imports is open for lunch


At this Francesca's offshoot in Fulton Market, nothing looks or tastes half-hearted, and many bites are truly remarkable. Bonus: A great wine list with many by-the-glass options.

Fulton Market and its environs are indisputably the city’s “it” neighborhood of the moment, with a bottomless supply of on-trend consumers. Sit-down restaurants, food halls, and counter-service spots blossom left and right. Joe’s Imports, a wine bar that opened in February and added lunch service in July, is one of the most interesting. At the helm are a couple of pros: Joe Fiely, Francesca’s Restaurant Group’s wine director and partner, and chef Scott Harris, the 27-restaurant group’s CEO and owner.

Word may not have reached all ears that Joe’s has lunch now; the sleekly furnished, 52-seat dining room and patio were underpopulated at midday on recent visits—too bad, as food-wise, the place really cooks. Extra credit goes to a kitchen and staff serving fewer customers than expected but still executing at the top of their game. Nothing looks or tastes half-hearted, and many bites are truly remarkable (we’re looking at you, corn salad). The menu takes a minute to digest, as dishes aren’t grouped by size or description (salads, apps, mains) but presented as a long, typographically lulling list, with bar-snacky Parmesan puffs ($9) up top, wagyu beef ($27) at the bottom and highly appealing everything else in between.

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Where To Get Some Pasta And A Glass Of Wine By Yourself

Where To Get Some Pasta And A Glass Of Wine By Yourself


Joe's Imports Wine Bar

After an eight-hour day filled with unproductive meetings and a desk salad for lunch, at 5pm you just need a glass of wine, some food, and to be left alone. Head to Joe’s, an easy-to-get-into wine bar in the West Loop. The pasta section of the menu is pretty limited, but the special of the day is good enough to make you forget about the morning’s brutal conference calls with corporate HQ.

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Joe Fiely, one of the partners and wine director for Francesca’s Restaurant Group, has brought a wine bar to Fulton Market. The expansive wine list features more than 250 bottles from around the globe and dozens by the glass. Brunch service pairs the alcohol with daytime dishes like fried parmesan cheese puffs, uni soft scramble, snow crab Benedict, and French pancakes.

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Joe’s Imports Wine Bar

It’s 5pm and you just need a glass of wine, some food, and time to complain with your colleagues. But you’re competing with all the other overworked people in the neighborhood who want to vent about their day, too. Head to Joe’s, an easy-to-get-into wine bar with tasty small plates, and order dishes like ricotta with honey, meatballs, or the pasta of the day. As a bonus, after being trapped inside a too-cold cubicle all day, this place has a nice patio where you can enjoy some fresh air while discussing the source of that weird smell in the office stairwell.

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Joe's Parmesan puffs at Joe's Imports

Whether a couple quick glasses and a bite or a full-on dinner, any session at Joe’s Imports, the Fulton Market wine bar, should start with the Parmesan puffs. Just put in your order right when you sit down, before you even pick a wine. The crispy nuggets will go with about any pour on Joe Fiely‘s carefully considered, Italian-focused (though not exclusively) list. The puffs will arrive soon after you’ve started in on a glass. Fried for a crust that yields with a satisfying crunch to a soft, rich, cheesy interior, the ping pong ball-size fritters satisfy in an elemental way. They come showered with finely grated Parmesan threads and a rather thick fondue for dipping, neither of which they need. But, hey, we like excess. The puffs make happy companions to rosés with decent acid and sparklers, and, best of all, with the bar’s Lambrusco — dry and refreshing and an almost purple dark red hue. if you’ve been resisting jumping in to the Lambrusco pool, let this be the summer you finally dive in. Ripples will run through your life, and you’ll know just what to eat with it. 813 W. Fulton Market, 312-736-1750, joeswineimports.com

— Joe Gray

Read Phil Vettel’s review of Bar Sotano and Joe’s Wine Imports »

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