Coconutz Chicago brings a touch of the Caribbean to the Gold Coast

Division Street’s newest hot spot opened on December 11, offering a tropical oasis in the midst of Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Coconutz Chicago, located at 13 West Division Street, is the latest offering from the Lodge Management Group and creates a welcome new vibe in the Division Street Entertainment District.

Serving island inspired food from Chef Sean Welker and beverages curated by General Manager and sommelier Joshua King and Beverage Director and sommelier Brendan Smith, Coconutz is a a welcome tropical oasis. The décor evokes the feelings of sitting outdoors on a Caribbean beach. The food and beverage program both focus primarily on island-inspired creations from around the world.

I was recently invited to attend a preview and found Coconutz to be a delightful change from the string of beer and sports-centric venues along that stretch of Division Street. The vibe is relaxed and welcoming with a hint of sophistication and class.

For food, Coconutz focuses on small plate “Cabana Bites.” Think “tapas with an island feel.” Although there are no full dinner options, the delightful Cabana Bites menu offers many options and it will be easy to put together a substantial meal if that’s your wish. Otherwise, it’s a great menu for just light noshing with your cocktail. The kitchen is open from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m. Some of the standouts for me were:

  • Lemongrass Pork Meatballs (Tare Glaze, Kimchi, Baby Bok Choy, Tomato) inspired by the Thai cuisine from Phuket.
  • Tuna Poke (Sesame, Scallion, Pickled Mango, Crispy Wonton) inspired by Hawaiian cuisine
  • Norma Jean’s Sunday Egg (Egg, Bacon, Mayo, Black Pepper, Tomato) a tasty riff on the deviled egg, inspired by the food of Avery Island

The cocktail program also offers a wonderful eclectic mix of hand-crafted cocktails utilizing fresh ingredients, house-made infusions, exotic punches, unique wine varietals, sangrias on tap, and craft beers. For both my friends and I, the standouts on this excellent cocktail menu were:

  • Cantaro (El Buho Mezcal, St. Germain, Fresh Blackberry, Ginger/Anise Syrup, Squeezed Lime) – a savory concoction with the smoky flavor of mescal balanced beautifully with the sweeter St. Germain. If you love mezcal, you must sample this cocktail.
  • Apricot Bonfire (Barrel Aged Pisco, House Made Falernum, Fresh Apricot, Squeezed Lime, Served With Torched Rosemary Stalk) – I was afraid it might be too sweet for me, but the balance on this one was perfect. The house-made Falernum adds a lovely bitter twist to this excellent drink.
  • Seasonal Sangria (Red Wine, Dark Rum, Fernet, Pomegranate Seeds, Pomegranate Juice, Cranberry Juice, Oranges) – Wow! This is the booziest yet tastiest sangria I have ever tasted. That’s not hyperbole. Truly, I haven’t ever had a better sangria. This is a dangerously wonderful drink, so be sure to have a designated driver in your group.

One of the most impressive things about the Coconutz menu, however, is the wine list. General Manager and sommelier Joshua King and Beverage Director and sommelier Brendan Smith have crafted a unique and exciting list of boutique “Old World” wines. The list contains fascinating vintages and some rare varietals, all drawn from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Where else in the Gold Coast can you sample a 2014 Kir-Yianni Rose “Akakies” Xinomavro from Macedonia? Or perhaps a 2012 Vale D. Dona Maria “Rufo” Touriga Nacional Blend from Douro, Portugal? I am a self-admitted wine geek, and this list has me very excited to stop back by and sample more.

With the return of “Happy Hour” to Chicago, Coconutz has opened at the perfect time. They offer daily “1-2 Punch” Happy Hour specials from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.: $1 off food items, $2 off wine, and $3 off the Signature Punch, a house-made white rum punch infused with tropical fruits, herbs, and spices mixed with a blend of fresh squeezed juices served in a Thai coconut.              

Coconutz Chicago is located at 13 West Division Street in Chicago, Illinois 60610. Coconutz will open daily at 4:00 p.m. and close at 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, Coconutz will party with a DJ and dancing at midnight until closing at 3:00 a.m. For more information, please call (312) 266-0944 or visit their website. You can follow their social media conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

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Photos by Eliaz Rodriguez


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