Art Direction / Build / Concept / Design
When LSD beverage director Paul McGee joined our team, we spoke with him and his business partner Shelby Allison about opening a tropical bar concept at some point. We just didn’t anticipate taking on and completing it so quickly.
After identifying and then (sorta) unexpectedly securing two relatively small storefronts in the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago, we quickly set out to design and build a fully immersive tropical bar, one that is now a radically stark departure from its previous iteration.
LSD partner Robert McAdams first pitched the ceilings variously throughout the space, giving each area a differing and more intimate feel. We then added bamboo and thatchwork throughout, as well as a dramatic ‘Martinique’ wallpaper print that defines the space. Oh, and there’s a cave room as well. We designed and then built a new bar and backbar, one replete with a large (and fairly combative) piranha tank. We then added some traditional tiki touches—blowfish, fish traps, glass floats and more—in creating a glamorous, tropical escape.
In 2017, Lost Lake introduced a new culinary element to the tropical offerings. In the kitchen formerly occupied by Thank You, which closed after a fire in March of 2016, Chef de Cuisine Fred Noinaj created a curated menu of sharable dishes that is available nightly.
The menu pulls from the island regions of Asia, with Korean, Polynesian, Chinese and Vietnamese influences that complement the tropical flavors of Lost Lake’s tiki drinks.
In the three short years since opening, Lost Lake has been acknowledged throughout the Chicago, national, and international cocktail communities, with awards ranging from "Best Cocktail Bar" (Time Out Chicago, 2018) to "Best American Cocktail Bar" (Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards, 2018).
These accolades are made even sweeter with the knowledge that Lost Lake is tended primarily by women, people of color, and queer folks. Being supported by such a strong community means that Lost Lake is focused on giving back through initiatives and programs like Shift-Ease, their monthly charitable party. Shift-Ease features a menu of cocktails from which all profits go to support a rotating community organizations championing a variety of causes, ranging from gun violence prevention, women’s health, reproductive rights, period supplies for Chicago’s low-income women, LGBTQ healthcare, and more.