Even if you’re looking for it, The Ladies’ Room isn’t easy to find. Nestled between Chicago’s beloved Macau-inspired restaurant Fat Rice (whose chef and co-owner, Abe Conlon, recently earned a James Beard Award) and its next-door bakery, it’s a snug 20-seat jewel box of a bar that necessitates a trip past the kitchen and into the heart of the building, setting the stage for the experience to come.
The Ladies’ Room takes its cultural cues from the hidden backroom dens of Macau’s red-light district in the early 20th century. A wall decked with vintage pinup art is cast in a literal red glow, creating a backdrop where minutes easily turn to hours.
Of course, some of the credit for lingering belongs to the libations, which expand the horizons of even frequent imbibers. One could start with a Side Hustle—which takes a duo of St. George gins (dry rye and terroir) and Punt e Mes and blends them with baijiu to achieve a remarkably smooth result. From there it could be a pour of the bar’s signature amaro, which started as a cardoon-based experiment but evolved into a favorite after years of tinkering.
And if you find yourself wondering, What exactly is feni? (a cashew-based spirit from India), fear not: The staff is equal parts knowledgeable and accommodating. “Our strategy has been to keep the menu relatively opaque, but to make the service really accessible,” says beverage director Annie Beebe-Tron. So ask questions—there’s a good chance the table next to you is wondering the same thing. —Matt Lynch