If you delight in the abject misery of other people, this year is a playground of schadenfreude. Chances are you have friends or family members who aren’t speaking because of political differences. There’s a high probability at least one of your buddies has threatened to pack up for Canada, even though that nation swiped left on our nonsense during the failed Alec Baldwin Invasion of 2001. Worse, Prince and David Bowie aren’t even around to help us forget our troubles.
It’s an utterly dreary pre-election Monday, and in place of further moping, I elect to prop myself up at the bar of Heim Barbecue instead. But it occurs to me that even though 2016 was full of near pervasive unpleasantness, there were two bright spots. First, my beloved Chicago Cubs became World Series Champions, and I don’t have to cringe when someone calls us the “loveable losers” anymore. Second, local couple Travis and Emma Heim opened Heim Barbecue with a stunningly well-curated selection of whiskey, scotch, and bourbon along with craft brews to complement the exceptional food.
The décor is about simplicity, but the towering bottle-stocked shelves provide an unexpectedly contemporary jolt that is aesthetically pleasing and highly functional. Most establishments that sell liquor display their most lucrative or frequently used choices and keep the lesser known bottles out of sight. For visually stimulated and curious drinkers like me, that means I’m less likely to try a Westland single malt from Oregon over the Macallan 12 in my field of vision. At Heim, it feels as if an aficionado designed the space and not someone that thought he should toss a bar up because it’s a revenue generator. Even though the kitchen stops when the barbecue runs out, the bar stays open every night except Tuesdays until 10pm.
Manning the bar during my visit is a cheerful and highly knowledgeable young woman named Brienne. The gentleman next to me struck up a conversation with us about his retired pastimes of golfing, checking out barbecue places, and having new drink experiences. After answering all the questions that he and I peppered her with, Brienne pulled down unfamiliar small-batch bottles so we could plan for future visits.
Unlike the handwritten food menu, the leather-covered bar list at Heim is so extensive you’ll need reading glasses. There are around 250 different types of bottles listed, so thankfully it’s visually well organized by libation type and region. There is a mix of small-batch distilleries and the major labels, so if you are looking for a favorite, you can find it, but there’s plenty of opportunity for adventure as well.
All drink menu selections are a pay-by-the-ounce pour, which means sipping even the most decadent choice on the menu, Suntory’s acclaimed Hakushu 18 single-malt Japanese whiskey, is $28 per ounce. It affords an excellent opportunity to customize a flight across the price and style spectrum.
I’ll confess. I have had some unusually disappointing experiences lately at some locations I’ve checked out for this column. But I think the vengeful gods of 2016 have stressed everybody out. I’m thrilled to report an opposite experience here. I’d recommend bringing any friends planning to leave the country down for a nice pour of America’s own Stranahan’s Diamond Peak single-malt whiskey and some of that Heim Twice Baked Potato Salad, and they’ll forget about jumping ship.