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Bar Biscay revels in the Basque region’s cuisine and pretension-free groove

Bar Biscay in West Town’s Eckhart Park neighborhood is the embodiment of the Basque region of Spain, where fine dining complements laid-back soirees.

“A Spanish party is an inclusive party, everyone’s allowed in,” co-owner Scott Worsham said. “People off the street are dragged in, whereas other cultures have a velvet-rope type [approach].”

Inspired by the Bay of Biscay that abuts Northern Spain and Western France, the year-old restaurant, at 1450 W. Chicago, dazzles and welcomes guests with its tropical sea blue facade and continues to lure with its libations and scrumptious menu.

Sign at Bar Biscay Restaurant. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Sign at Bar Biscay Restaurant. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

“A lot of our beverage menu and food menu pair and taste well together,” manager Neal Neumann said. “You can throw a dart at the drink list and it will taste good with [whatever you order].”

The “Pintxos Happy Hour,” from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, features five snacks for $8. Pintxos are finger foods, often served skewered with a toothpick at bars in the Basque region.

Cocktails at Bar Biscay in Eckhart Park. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Cocktails at Bar Biscay in Eckhart Park. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Bar Biscay also features the “Triple 6” special selections of a $6 wine, cocktail or shot and half-off wine night on Tuesdays.  And on any given day, it’s not uncommon for the porrón — a communal wine pitcher — to be passed around to get the party started.

Happy hour appetizers at Bar Biscay Restaurant. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Happy hour pintxos at Bar Biscay Restaurant.  | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Chef Johnny Anderes allows fresh, quality ingredients to shine without much manipulation. During the winter months, he leans more French with heavier creams and sauces. In the summer, he lets the spicier and brighter flavors of Spain take center stage.

Wild Mushrooms / Soft Egg, Sherry-Jus at Bar Biscay. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Wild Mushrooms / Soft Egg, Sherry-Jus at Bar Biscay. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

A seafood lover can’t fail — menu selections range from monkfish with sunchokes, olives and yuzu vinaigrette to razor clams or cockles on toast. For the carnivore, there’s whole oxtail, Cornish game hen and classic steak au poivre.  The charcuterie board is among the best in the city and showcases a chef’s selection from sea and land.

Sausage Stuffed Piquillos / Manchego Mornay at Bar Biscay. | Brian

Sausage Stuffed Piquillos / Manchego Mornay at Bar Biscay. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

On Wednesday nights, you can partake of “The Tour of Biscay” tasting menu — four full courses of house favorites that feeds two for $60.

For the ultimate culinary adventurer, try the Chef’s Counter tasting menu, up to seven courses at $75 per person.

Worsham, his wife, Sari Zernich Worsham, and Joe Campagna, another co-owner, hope to debunk the idea that good food is only for special occasions.

“I’m less interested in perfection than I ever was in my career,” said Worsham. “I’m more interested in the vibe of the room and making sure that everyone’s having a good time.”

Razor Clams / Radish, Garlic Butter, Toast at Bar Biscay. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Razor Clams / Radish, Garlic Butter, Toast at Bar Biscay. | Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Helping seal the laid-back, friendly theme is the atmosphere, art installation meets chill beach club. The minimalist space is slightly psychedelic, especially at night, when the glow of LED and floating tube lights tints the room in shades of pink and dark blue.

“It’s like a spaceship of really great food, personalities and wine and cocktails,” Anderes said.