It’s a tropical-style bar and craft cocktail destination. It’s a secret hideaway. Its name is Morse code for letter V.
It’s Three Dots and a Dash, a Lettuce Entertain You place that has been around for a few years, but it was my first visit so I thought it merited a review for those of you who, like me, might be late to the party.
Included among Drink International’s “World’s 50 Best Bars” it is helmed by cocktail expert Kevin Beary who uses fresh exotic fruits and spices, fine rums, distilled spirits, juices and elixirs.
Tucked away behind 435 N. Clark St near downtown Chicago, Three Dots and a Dash has an off-street entry providing a speakeasy, in-the-know, kind of experience. But it features outdoor seating to provide an alfresco COVID safe option.
As to the name, the letter V was used as a signal for victory at the time of WWII so I surmise that the name, combined with the Hawaiian theme, harkens back to the post-war, early 1950’s vibe that included memories of Pearl Harbor and the addition of the collection of islands into the union on August 21st 1959.
I have memories of neighbors and the parents of friends who had Hawaiian themed basement bars featuring the same kind of thatched roof and tiki plaque décor seen here at 3D&D on a slightly larger scale .
This redux of the island vibe with its ubiquitous period inspired paper umbrella drinks is elevated now with spices and spirits likely unavailable to my parents generation who had to settle for more locally available flavor options.
Our trio visited at opening time midweek so I cannot report if there is a more festive atmosphere later in the evening, but for cocktail hour it was quite pleasant and relaxing.
The menu includes some terms such as *Rhum agricole that may be unfamiliar but we had a knowledgeable server. *Note: Rhum agricole is the French term for rum distilled from freshly squeezed sugarcane juice rather than molasses. Rhum (with an h) is the term that typically distinguishes it in French-speaking locales from the rum (no h) made with molasses in other parts of the West Indies.
My cousin visiting from New England opted for the fruity citrus forward Three Dots and a Dash house specialty with a distinctive flavor of allspice. The eponymous cocktail was garnished with three dark dried maraschino cherries (dots?) on top of a pineapple slice (dash?) in a tall rectangular shaped ceramic vessel festooned with an array of blue skulls – – a motif that mimics the ceiling of the staircase we descended when entering the subterranean venue.
Her brother opted for an updated classic, the Future Mai Tai, also featuring single-barrel aged Martinique rhum agricole, plus Japanese whisky and yellow chartreuse, with lime and five spice orgeat served in a tsunsami decorated mug.
Being a sucker for coconut and pineapple I chose the Pandan Painkiller that might be described simply as a pina colada. However, the pandan spice provides a distinctive vanilla flavor making it reminiscent of horchata or even a coconut infused vanilla milkshake. I liked the drink and its classic, tall brown ceramic tiki tumbler with fresh orchid garnish.
Keep in mind this is a cocktail bar, not a restaurant but their limited food option was satisfying and yummy. The place is perfect for a pre-show or post-show snack or, in my case, a very late lunch.
Their pupu platter basically serves up a variety of everything and in most cases might be the perfect choice. However, none of us were excited about crab Rangoon so we just ordered one plate of each of the other ap options. The coconut shrimp were large enough, crunchy and satisfactorily coconut encrusted. Likewise the fried chicken bits were equally crunchy and flavorful. Pulled pork sliders were a nice bite as were the spring rolls. These were accompanied by four dipping sauces that ranged from sweet through smoky to mildly spicy. The menu also includes a few salads and a burger.
We could not quite figure out their reservations issues. The online system indicated the only option for the day we wanted was at 4 p.m. However when we left at 5:30 there were no more people then when we arrived which was sparse. The website says they accommodate walk-ins so if you’re nearby just try stopping in.
If you have time before or after your visit, the place is a short walk from the Riverwalk, a casual stroll on a nice day.
I’m happy to know about this place and will definitely put it on my list of recommendations for a distinctive gathering, late Saturday lunch (after 2 p.m.), late night snack or quick nosh when not really looking for dinner. Keep in mind the bar is strictly for guests over 21. Check Three Dots and a Dash for more information.