While its roots lie in that of an old-school neighborhood bar, its present lies in that of a swanky lounge. Xippo is not only the sole bar in Chicago that starts with the letter “X” but is also one of the only bars in all of Lakeview that has a Wicker Park vibe, reminiscent of Augenblick that used to be located just up the street and Ivan’s a little further away. Since it was renovated and re-opened sometime around 2001, Xippo has offered those of West Lakeview a good selection of cocktails, standard selection of pub grub supplemented by a nice selection of entrées prepared by a professional chef, and a place to impress your date or that “special” someone you meet at the bar that night…
Xippo can be found at the base of an orange brick two-flat on the southeast corner of Damen and Grace, not far up the block from Black Rock and across from the firehouse. Xippo can easily spotted with its bright red and orange dinner plate-like logo that looks set upon a blue and green ceramic mosaic. They also have velvet ropes out front and valet parking for $5, which I can’t help but question if this is really necessary… Though Xippo is a good spot, I can’t imagine waiting outside to get in, even on the weekends, and there’s plenty of parking in the area except maybe on Saturday night between 9pm and midnight.
Regardless, push your way through the plate glass door and you’ll find a single room, loungey space with wooden floors and a nicely appointed maroon tin ceiling. There’s a seating area just inside the door, against the large windows framed with purple velvet drapes overlooking Damen, that features low-rider, padded strip club-like chairs with throw pillows and low-slung marble tables with votive candles. Red, almost teardrop-like lights hang over a wooden bar that runs halfway down the northern wall. A smattering of cocktail tables lies opposite in front of a DJ booth, under a flatpanel hanging on the maroon-wallpapered southern wall that is larger than the two framing the back-bar. For some reason, this area is very brightly lit, as is the additional seating area filled with more cocktail tables in the back, just beyond a banquette of crushed velvet and a few more low-slung tables. The unisex, one-seater bathrooms can also be found in the back, intelligently separated from diners by a glass partition. In this way, when you see Bluto running for the can with a strained look on his face, you’ll not have to dine and dash.
Now that Hizzoner Richard M. Daley requires that all taverns opening under new liquor licenses must have a kitchen and serve food, there is no lack of poor quality pub grub out there. At Xippo, it’s another story. I’ve had the fried calamari appetizer, burger, chicken breast entrée, and lava cake, and all were very good. Recent standouts also include the pork chops served with fried apples, shrimp skewers and the 7-ounce filet mignon. Sandwiches are reasonably priced at around $7, and most entrees go for $12-$15, except for the filet at $25. You can wash it all down with a sampling from Xippo’s impressive wine and martini list, and the joint also has a decent selection of drafts including Sierra Nevada. Dinner is served until 10pm-ish at which point the cocktail crowd comes in. Brunch is also served on Sundays, and you’ll also encounter a sidewalk café along Grace during warmer times.
Xippo definitely tries hard to be a sophisticated lounge, which it largely is except on slow weekdays when the owners buddies hang out at the bar to watch gameshows and sports with the volume on the sound system turned up. Otherwise, the place features resident DJs spinning any combination of lounge, acid jazz, house and hip hop. I even ran across an excellent jazz trumpet performance by “Dogglounge,” accompanied by clubby dance music played by a DJ. All of the above attracts the chic-est that Roscoe Village has to offer.
Once an old-school corner bar owned by their parents, the Samardzija Brothers of Xippo have successfully breathed new life into it with a bit of an Eastern European flair similar to that of Player’s Club. Not bad for a bar named after the Serbian mafia. For more information, give them a call as they do not currently have a website. Ziveli!