A few Saturdays ago, my gang and I were sitting around deciding what to do with our night. After throwing out a number of suggestions that were shot down for one reason or another, someone eventually threw out the idea of the new Tapster in Wicker Park. They explained that it’s a self-service beer and wine situation where you pay as you go with a Tapster card.The seven of us hopped into two separate Ubers and made the trek from the South Loop to Wicker Park. When we arrived, I was immediately hit with the scent of fresh popcorn. Upon looking around, I saw that patrons were eating from large popcorn tins and I knew I liked the place already.
In order to get a card, you have to walk to the front desk (conveniently labeled with a “start here” sign) and put your credit card down. You then have the option of 8 different wines (four red and four white,) and over 30 different beers ranging from your average Miller Lite to limited edition stouts. Up the stairs, you also have the options of different cocktails, sodas, and kombacha on tap. The way it works is similar to a self-serve frozen yogurt place, where you can put your Tap card down and sample a little something before committing. Each tap has a touch-screen component that details what is available, as well as the cost per ounce.
While it may seem overwhelming, there are members of the staff walking around at all times to assist – giving a personal touch to something that is somewhat futuristic. The main level has a small counter area with bar stools and then a section on high top tables. Up the stairs (where you can get your cocktail on) you’ll find more of a loungey vibe as well as an actual bar where you can order shots. At the back of the establishment is an area for small bites of food.The overall vibe of the place was very laid back, which made it easy for conversation. It was fun to try the different number of beverage options. And, it’s a good bang-for-your-buck spot because you can control exactly how much you’re spending. I mean, how many places can you just get a sip or two of beer for 39 cents? The fact that Tapster is interactive is a nice change of pace and sparked a lot of conversation. If all of that wasn’t great enough, the popcorn was delicious and came with unlimited refills.
Late Nights and Libations
Tapster opened in March of 2017 and has received a decent amount of press as well as foot traffic. Saturday nights, you’re likely to find lines out the door. The bar is open until 3 a.m. on Saturdays (2 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays) and is in the prime location of Wicker Park. One of the highlights of the night was watching some of the staff members juggle as the crowd dwindled down for the night. The staff was very approachable and made the laid-back atmosphere even more chill. For more information, check out the Tapster website.
Review originally published by Taylor Leddin for Chicago Bar Project.