For the indecisive social drinker, Chicago is a wonderland of choices. Aside from the sheer astounding mass of diverse bars that dot the city, there are quite a few that go a step further by carving out entirely different bars within existing infrastructure. Essentially, the result is a Russian nesting doll-like bar situation, where one space begets another. From subterranean speakeasies to rooftop nooks, it’s a form that has been perfected and diversified in Chicago in recent years.
The coolest facet of this recent phenomenon is how different these adjoining bars typically are, providing a one-two punch of varied drinking experiences under one roof. The first prime example is Slippery Slope and The Heavy Feather in Logan Square, a duo that could not be more different in terms of style, vibe, and flavor. The one similarity between these two crowd-pleasers, though? They both tread in nostalgia.
Located along a hyper-bustling stretch of Milwaukee Avenue, a central artery through the core of one of Chicago’s hottest ‘hoods for food and beverage these days, Slippery Slope and The Heavy Feather are the handiwork of the Scofflaw Group. That name might ring a bell if you’re a fan of gin and complimentary midnight chocolate chip cookies, considering their namesake cocktail bar on the western edge of Logan Square cultivates quite a crowd for food and drink. On the heels of Scofflaw’s success, co-owners Danny Shapiro, Mandy Tandy, Andy Gould and Kris Nagy branched out nearby with a couple new venues that display their boozy dexterity and prove they’re anything but a one-trick pony. In fact, that metaphorical pony is quite a triple-threat.
First came Slippery Slope, a rollicking dance hall and frills-free enclave for the young at heart. The cavernous bar debuted in May of 2014, instantly drawing lines down the block for its unique upbeat mix of bottled cocktails, beer, dancing and coin-operated Skee-ball. The narrow, crimson-hued space is anchored by an elongated bar packed with adorable bottled cocktails bedecked with straws and a small selection of cheap beer. There are three Skee-ball machines in front, which are understandably a big hit with drunken nostalgia-lovers, and a tight photo booth in back. That’s also where the dance floor dwells, presided over by a rotating roster of DJs and teeming with bodies writhing around to everything from soul songs to MGMT.
Unlike its sister bar, Scofflaw, craft cocktails aren’t the crux at Slippery Slope. Rather, you can expect more modest offerings like a damn fine and well-priced bottled Aviation or a tangy margarita, which are leaps and bounds better than what you’d find at most sweaty nightclubs. The bar also has its own proprietary blueberry beer made by Dark Horse Brewing, which goes down way too easily. Clearly, folks don’t go to Slippery Slope for mind-blowing mixology, they come here to dance, play Skee-ball, post photos of Skee-ball to Instagram and have a riotous good time with friends.
Granted, the buoyant backdrop at Slippery Slope isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Which is why ownership branched out upstairs in 2015 with a bar that boasts an entirely different ambience. While the ground-floor bar pulsates with DJ-driven tunes, The Heavy Feather offers a more subdued, vintage vibe in a chill setting reminiscent of 1970’s-era Fern bars. The upstairs space is accessed through a nondescript stairway on the left-hand side of Slippery Slope, and as you ascend, the energy shift becomes instantly palpable.
Up there, patrons can expect a more cocktail-driven setting complete with comfy rolling chairs, ambient lamps, polished wood and dangling fern plants aplenty. Altogether, it feels like the type of place Liberace would kick back with a cocktail. The beverage program is a lot more complex and expansive up here too, probably because bartenders have the time and flexibility to make drinks that don’t need to be balanced on a crowded dance floor. In line with the throwback ’70’s motif, The Heavy Feather’s retro-inspired cocktail portfolio contains drinks like ice cream-packed Mudslides, whiskey- and Amaro-based Polished Nails, Amaretto Sours, and a Plum Gin Fizz, which is a nice riff on a classic Fern bar staple, the Sloe Gin Fizz. It’s a menu that’s at once playful, intricate, and unabashedly indulgent.
Like a buffet that offers a little bit of something for everyone, the dynamic duo of Slippery Slope and The Heavy Feather accomplishes a similar feat in the heart of Logan Square’s most exciting drinking district. While one floor skews loud and energetic, with virtually nothing but standing room to speak of, the second, more clandestine floor veers in the opposite direction. Depending on mood and craving, there’s something sure to fit the bill in this booze-filled building.