A New Bucktown Cocktail Bar Makes Magical Malort Shots and More

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Authentic dive bars, not merely the spaces that have adopted the aesthetic — those pretenders are filled with vintage neon signs and serve marked-up cans of domestic beer — are plentiful in Chicago. There’s a dedicated cohort of independent tavern owners who take pride in keeping these shot and beer spots alive.

On the other hand, the city’s cocktail bars have been dominated by larger hospitality groups. While customers can see semblances of DIY culture in many of those bars, some can be more glitz than substance. In recent times, Chicago’s bar scene has experienced a revolution, with taverns like Lemon and West Town and Moonflower in Portage Park showing drinkers that not all independents need to have sticky floors like a dive.

A case in point is Truce, an intimate drinking den that debuted before Memorial Day at 1935 N. Damen Avenue in Bucktown. The opening was pushed back a few times, but the final product is worth it. Stepping into the narrow space along Damen Avenue visitors will find a unique warmth rarely seen at a bar open for only a few weeks. The staff is friendly, the menu offers many options without feeling like a dense atlas, and nothing feels out of place — including the customers; there’s a welcoming and accepting vibe.

Two couples run and own the spot: David Mor and Matthew Hunnel, plus Rami Ezzat and Sarah Kmiec. Their hospitality experience runs the gamut, including from Robert et Fils, Bavette’s, and Cindy’s.

Mor is behind the drink list. He’s associated with Zubair Mohajir, the chef behind the casual Lilac Tiger and the Indian tasting menu restaurant the Coach House, both in Wicker Park. Mor is also a partner in Mohajir’s upcoming Mexican-Indian restaurant, Mirra — opening this summer around the corner from Truce. He’s using Mohajir’s masala chai recipe in his triple chai daiquiri, a viscous concoction made with Mount Gay rum. Mor put serious thought to the fancy drinks on the menu, but his bartenders quietly suggest more folks drink the simple strawberry vermouth and sparkling water. Truce celebrates various cocktail cultures, including Chicago’s. That explains a shot — RBF, which is made with cacao, Aperol, lemon, and Jeppson’s Malört. For folks who stay away from the famously bitter spirit, RBF does the unthinkable — it delivers a bright and sweet flavor while retaining a hint of that famously bitter flavor. Making Malört would strip the spirit of its essence,

Truce is also open in the mornings with coffee from Valparaiso, Indiana-based Yaggy Road Roasting Company. It’s the base for several “latte-like” drinks, which are also available later in the day for folks who don’t want to drink alcohol. There are small bites like bagels and overnight oats, too.

Walk through the space below. Truce is now open.

Truce, 1935 N. Damen Avenue, open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. from Thursday to Monday

David Mor pours a drink.

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