First Look: All the Cocktails at Parson's Chicken & Fish, Chicago

First Look

Preview brand-new spots to drink (or fresh new menu items) here.

[Photographs: Roger Kamholz]

Note: First Looks give previews of new drinks and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.

If adult summer camps were a thing, then a spot like Parson's Chicken & Fish could serve as the genre's commissarial lodestar. It has all the makings of the ultimate fair-weather snack bar: judging by the squat, hut-like architecture, the building that houses the dining room, main bar, and kitchen was almost certainly once a lowbrow fried-chicken shack to begin with; more of the restaurant is outside than in, with a large majority of the seating concentrated, beer garden-style, in a picnic-table-filled lot around back; and much of the food, by chef Hunter Moore (Girl & the Goat, Lula Café, Nightwood), arrives by way a deep fryer.


The whitewashed bar and dining room at Parson's. [Photograph: Clayton Hauck]

If the food and vibe say stay awhile, the cocktail program aims to make the argument more compelling. Max Wolod, Parson's general manager (XOCO, North Pond), and Charlie Schott, its principal bartender, have put together a debut drink list that in its broad strokes is light and playful and in step with the food, yet also betrays creative flourishes that keep things interesting over the course of, say, a long summer afternoon of day-drinking.


Looking out the front entrance at the restaurant's red 1977 El Camino.

Parson's is the latest restaurant venture of Land & Sea Dept., a Chicago-based cohort of design-savvy entrepreneurs whose best-known work, Longman & Eagle, is at once an ambitious, Michelin-starred dining destination and an old-school whiskey-pouring neighborhood tavern. With the introduction of Parson's, LSD's methodology grows clearer: melt down a few cultural-historical references (Southern rock, classic American cars, a black-and-white photo depicting circa-1970s-style revelry), tap a promising chef to stir the pot, and leaven with a sprinkle of unassuming, modern-eclectic design. Big crowds are already thronging to the two-week-old spot when the weather abides.


Bartender Sterling Knight stirring a Red Hook cocktail.

On a recent evening, Schott greeted me at Parson's to walk me through the ingredients and inspiration behind all of the debut cocktails. Before joining the bar team at Parson's, he spent the past three years behind the stick at Longman. I sensed that during his time there he cultivated a sensibility that favors unfussy presentations and relies little on ingredients like elaborate syrups and to build flavor. He prefers drinks where the inherent qualities of the spirits, juices, and liqueurs do most of the talking.


Parson's two sets of "triplebacks," consisting of a shot of booze, a chaser, and a bite of food.

Check out the slideshow for an in-depth look at all the cocktails at Parson's Chicken & Fish.

Parson's Chicken & Fish

2952 West Armitage Street, Chicago, IL 60647 (map)