It's hits you as soon as you walk into Ronero ( 738 W. Randolph St.; www.ronerochicago.com/ )a friendly, vibrant, and refined yet casual atmosphere that epitomizes Latin America.
Bold colors, romantic lighting, friendly staff and samba music greet you, making the West Loop spot immediately enticing. ( And music is definitely a part of the scene, as live tango performances take place Tuesdays; DJ Mauricio provides beats on Thursdays; and live Latin music and performances happen during Sunday brunch. )
By the way, "ronero" refers to someone who has mastered the art of distilling rumand, boy, does this spot have rum. There are approximately 200 different bottles of rum, and the drink menu had two pages of Latin American rums alone, listed by country.
The cocktails my dining companion and I had were distinctly differentbut were uniformly delicious. The Bombilla contains Old Forester Signature Bourbon, Benedictine Herbal Liqueur, Stone Ground Yerba Mate Tea, lemon and mint; the Curandero has Avion Blanco Tequila, Saler's Gentian Apertif, chamomile tea, lime and Combier Pamplemousse Rose; and the sassy Mama Pacha is a mix of The Botanist Gin, Singani 63 Bolivian Spirit, St. Elizabeth allspice liqueur, Chicha Morada ( Purple Corn Punch ) and lemon.
As for the cuisine, it thankfully hits the mark as well. Empanadas were prepared very well, the pollo al vino rojo ( a half-chicken with pate and roasted raisins ) was absolutely delicious and the lamb chops warrant a return visit. ( Alas, we were told the rope vieja dishconsisting of braised goat, fresh baked cheese and grilled focacciawould initially take a while, and then were informed that it'd be unavailable altogether. )
Despite that unfortunate development, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I'll gladly returnalthough to go through that rum menu, I'd have to come back about a hundred times.
Staytion mixology class
Want to impress your friends? Attend a Thursday mixology class at Staytion ( in the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel at 1 W. Wacker Dr. )
Self-proclaimed "bar chef" Kevin Fahey ( who says he's also known as "Kevin Mix-a-lot" ) teaches on a variety of topics, using intriguing Ingredients and even science to draw the oohs and ahhs from his audiences.
On Aug. 23, I attended a class that incorporated Wizard World Comic Con themes, in advance of the Aug. 23-26 event. Faheywhose passion is so evident that he actually becomes giddy when people start engaging him about mixologyprepared Deadpool- and Green Lantern-inspired drinks ( and the Ryan Reynolds link wasn't lost on me ).
The red Deadpool drink ( which I liked slightly more than the other ) Herring cherry liqueur, smoke and Johnnie Walker. Amaro, Midori and lime tincture helped make up the Green Lantern concoction, which came with a power-ring garnish ( made of freeze-dried honeydew ).
To see what Fahey is teaching next, visit deals.marriott.com/renaissance/usa/il/chicago/staytionmixologyclass . Classes are on Thursdays at 5-7 p.m.