By Stella Tirone By Stella Tirone | September 2, 2021 | Food & Drink Feature
West Loop favorite MONEYGUN is reimagined, expanded and ready for action.
Candlelight and neon signs illuminate the sultry bar area, bringing elevated dive vibes.
Cached away under the Lake Street L tracks, low-key watering hole MONEYGUN has been a West Loop institution since 2016. Now, the beloved bar has been reimagined. Walk through the door and it’s a different decade, but in the best way possible—the interior giving a midcentury-modern vibe with dark wood, sleek lines and swiveling vinyl bar stools. The music is loud and the lights are low. Sinking into a dark leather booth with the glow of neon bar signs illuminating the extensive cocktail menu, it’s easy to see why this space attracts an amiable mix of hipsters and mixology enthusiasts.
Being “just a bar” is taken to another level with 40 handcrafted cocktails by Donavan Mitchem.
After its debut, MONEYGUN quickly became a must-try drinking destination, in large part due to its expertly curated cocktail menu by beverage director Donavan Mitchem (The Bedford, Drumbar, Celeste), culminating in a nomination for a Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Spirited Award for best American high-volume cocktail bar in 2020. Taking advantage of the pandemic-induced shutdown, 16” on Center hospitality collective expanded the bar to 1,100 square feet, taking over the dining room of the company’s adjacent Saint Lou’s Assembly space. “Before last year’s shutdown, MONEYGUN was bursting at the seams,” admits Mitchem. “In keeping with our theme of being ‘just a bar,’ we wanted to give people more space to just sit back and chill.”
A new selection of bar snacks from the 1950s through today—like grilled oysters with harissa and butter, pictured here—add to the nostalgia of the newly renovated space.
That’s not the only change the group made: MONEYGUN has also added a series of inventively nostalgic bar snacks—think pimento cheese made with Wisconsin cheddar and served with Triscuits, plus shrimp cocktail, patty melts and more—along with its extensive menu of 40 handcrafted cocktails including must-tries like the strawberry margarita sweetened with agave; a White Russian made with fresh espresso, vodka and cream; and even the creamy Pink Squirrel, a deceptively boozy Midwestern classic.
Complete with a bocce court and shaded picnic tables, the backyard patio is an ideal respite from the industrial grit of Lake Street, just steps away.
Out back, Lou’s Backyard keeps the party going courtesy of Mediterranean-inspired bites by James Beard Award-winning chef Zach Engel of Galit, ideally paired with cocktails and a bocce game, all in the cozy setting of rustic wooden tables shaded by umbrellas and dotted with strings of twinkle lights. Sums up Mitchem of the destination’s appeal, “The food and drink pair hand in hand to create a familiar experience that people love.” And with all the exciting changes afoot at MONEYGUN, that means there’s even more to love. 660 W. Lake St., moneygunchicago.com
Photography by: Cocktails Photo by Sandy Noto; All Others By Lorenzo Tassone