Dave Hoekstra, long-time Chicago author, journalist and radio host, and Paul Natkin, long-time photo journalist, take you on a journey through Chicagoland.
Rising costs and higher rents led to the demise of the big downtown Chicago tiki bars of the mid-20th century. But their vision continues in more intimate and provocative destinations like Three Dots and a Dash. The dimly lit tiki bar is in a basement alley at 435 N. Clark St. in the busy River North neighborhood where young pufferfish roam the streets. Three Dots and a Dash is morse code used in World War II for “Victory.”
Find out what managing partner R.J. Melman and cocktail expert Julian Cox want you to know about Three Dots and a Dash:
Three Dots and a Dash opened in 2013 and soon made its way onto lists like “The World’s Top 50 Bars.” This is because the operation went against Chicago’s natural pretension. Three Dots did not employ bartenders, they were "mixologists." Famous mixologist Paul McGee created ridiculous things like the $385 “Treasure Chest” of rums, pineapple, and guava that included a neon-lit bottle of Dom Perigon for serving between six to eight people.
In December, 2015 McGee left Three Dots and a Dash for the even more pretentious Lost Lake tiki bar on the far northwest side of Chicago and his transition was covered in the local media with the drama of Donald J. Trump switching to the Democratic party. Sad!
Three Dots and a Dash has since mellowed. The Treasure Chest remains, but a new menu includes cane spirits from Brazil, a boatload of rums, and affordable snacks like crab rangoon, Thai fried chicken and a “Big Kahuna” burger. Three Dots and a Dash is a fine choice for tourists on an expense account and with a designated drive back to their hotel. Its secret, dark and 210-capacity intimate vibe is similar to the subterranean Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco and McGee partnered with Smuggler’s Cove’s Martin Cate to open Lost Lake. Just hold your own. It can be intimidating to order something as simple as a a Mai Tai or a Kona beer in the rarefied air of the fancy tiki bar, but remember you are in a down-to-earth place like Chicago. And Chicago’s got your back.
Open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays. Open 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays. Open 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturdays. Alley Entrance and Tiki Drink photos courtesy of Sam Howzit. Other photos/video by Paul Natkin, Photo Reserve.