River North is not a neighborhood I often visit for nightlife. Usually, if I’m there, it’s for a workout via ClassPass. But my best friend is flying solo this weekend, and wanted to hang out. She’s a mom of two, works full-time, and lives basically in the country but loves going out in the city, so I wanted to show her a good time 😉
I’ve heard about the Drifter many times, and by that I mean that I see many Instagram posts from various burlesque performers from their performances at the Drifter. And it looks like a really neat space. So when Gen asked if there’s anywhere I’ve been interested in going, this place came to mind.
But first, dinner. We ended up at Bernie’s Lunch & Supper because 1) I was entertained by the name and 2) based on Yelp photos, they had really nice rooftop seating. Well, the rooftop had a 2-hour wait, so we dined inside instead. We ordered the Lamb Hashwi (humus with ground lamb & pita), Roasted Oysters and Patatas Bravas. The Lamb Hashwi was amazing, I would go there just to order that and a cocktail to start my night. The oysters were pretty good, and the potatoes did not disappoint. For cocktails we had the Just Us (me), Pear Favor and Butterfly (Gen) and I also had a sparkling rose but the name of it escapes me.
We finished dinner around 10 and headed over to the Drifter. It’s a secret bar, and the internet told us the entrance is near the bathrooms of the Green Door Tavern. I almost walked into what was probably a janitor’s closet, when thankfully, a couple people came out of a different door, which turned out to be the entrance. We left our name & phone number with the hostess, and headed back up to Green Door to get a drink and wait for a table to become available (and got to watch a little bit of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics). After a half hour, I got a text that our table was ready.
The Drifter is a very small space. The sign on the wall said they are only permitted to have 37 people in there at a time. Because of this, there isn’t a bad seat in the house, and it feels cozy, but not crowded. There is a beer & wine list, and cocktails are ordered off of tarot cards from a list that changes daily. They have some food (snacks) but we didn’t order any. (Also, there is a cover that is added to your tab, I think it was $6.)
Gen ordered the Sibling Rivalry, and I ordered something that was a mix of fruity and spicy – it had raspberry but also a chile liqueur. It was great, but I don’t remember the name. Our second round for both of us were custom drinks. Gen liked her drink, but wanted something simpler, explained it to the bartender and her brought her something. I told the bartender that I like gin & tonics, nothing sweet, and he brought me this amazing bitter cocktail that he said was made with vodka, gin, lemon, lime and cascarilla, which he explained is an ingredient in bitters. The third round for me was The Lonely Horseman – bourbon/amaro/gin, it was really great, but all three drinks I had were very different.
The entertainment at the Drifter is “pop up style.” There is no emcee, the hostess just pulls back the curtain on the small stage every half hour or so, and someone performs. In between sets, silent black & white videos (mostly vintage burlesque performers) are projected onto the curtain. I knew that Trixie Little was in town, because I was signed up for a workshop with her at Studio L’amour, and given that Michelle L’amour curates the entertainment at the Drifter, I was really hoping Trixie Little would be performing. And my stalker sense was right! She performed, then Michelle L’amour performed, then Trixie Little performed again … the act that won her the 2015 Miss Exotic World title.
When we left the bar, Gen wanted to dance, but the the nearest place to do so has a $20 cover, so we decided it was time to call it a night.
So I wouldn’t say we painted the town red, but maybe we reached orange level.