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Jason Burrell

35, Uptown

Real-life roles: Bar owner, realtor 
Starring in: An Officer and a Gentleman

Is Jason Burrell the nicest guy in Chicago? You would think the best part of owning a bar is the free drinks, right? Not for Burrell, co-owner of Lake View’s Long Room. “It’s the staff, who take such pride in the place. And a lot of regulars have become friends.” Burrell entered the biz seven years ago with a buddy from Bistro 110, where he worked as a waiter after graduating from Georgetown; he also sits on the board of the nonprofit Camp of Dreams. Heck, he’s even friendly with the competition. Of his favorite drink, a Manhattan with French brandy-filled cherries, Burrell says: “We stole that one from the Matchbox. But it’s OK, because we’re friends with them.”

Send Jason an e-mail

What do you do every day? I walk my dog; I try to eat delicious food (anything wrapped in bacon); I go to the bar. And I shower.

What did you think you’d be when you grew up? Less full of bacon.

When you’re alone, who do you play air guitar to? It would have to be air bass, and when I’m alone is the key factor here: Hall and Oates, I Can’t Go for That.

What’s your power outfit? I don’t have one. I gave away my Members Only jacket back in 1986-87.

Fill in the blanks: I’d rather have a significant other who celebrates what is happening today than who complains about what happened yesterday.

In a dream world, who would you look like? Morgan Freeman, when I’m older. Write like? Kay Boyle. Dance like? Turbo or Ozone, from Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Cook like? My grandmother. Any time you have a 92-year-old black woman cooking Southern food, you know it’s going to be good. And sing like? Syl Johnson.

Favorite movie hero? Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption.

Most quotable movie line? The Warriors is the movie I’ve seen the most in my life: “Our lit-tle . . .  piece . . . of turf . . . Cannn yooou dig iiiiiit?”

Last movie that made you cry? I’m pretty easy in that regard. The end of Big Fish always makes me cry, and I’ve seen it, like, three times.

Favorite blog? I don’t read blogs. The word itself turns me off: “blog.”

Most recommended book? The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy.

Name one thing that’s overrated: MTV.

Who are you a secret groupie for? Jon Stewart.

What song will be played at your wedding? So in Love, by Curtis Mayfield.

What’s your go-to homemade meal? I make great Brie cheese mashed potatoes, and I’ll serve that with anything.

Fill in the blanks: Vacations are for hammocks, not too many plans.

You pull a Ferris Bueller and call in sick on a beautiful July day. What do you do? Go to the dog beach, then go to Moody’s and have a cheeseburger.

What Chicago neighborhoods have you lived in? Hyde Park, Lake View, Old Town, and Uptown. My favorites are Uptown and Hyde Park, for exactly the same reason: they’re the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago.

How long is too long to spend looking for a parking spot? After an hour, it’s time to make some other plans.

Teacher’s pet or class clown? More of a class clown.

Name one thing you have in your house from your childhood: An old, ratty blanket, one of those blankets with the satin rim on it, that goes back to when I was seven.

And one embarrassing thing you hide when guests are coming over: Color Me Badd’s 1991 début, C.M.B.

Describe the state of your closet: Fairly organized—very organized—but I have quite a few shoes and no place to put them.

How much is too much to pay for jeans? I’m not going to get involved with women buying jeans, but for me, I just buy Levi’s, always the same ones, and they’re $40 or $50.

What’s in your pockets right now? My wallet, my keys, and 39 cents.

Have you ever collected anything? Those little Smurf figurines. They’re probably with the Members Only jacket somewhere.

When was the last time you jumped up and cheered? When Oprah and her best friend, Gayle, made it home safely from their road trip. Phew!

Last time you told a lie? A white lie—I can’t expose it—but it was very white and it was two days ago.

Last time you Googled yourself? Probably three years ago, because, unfortunately, I didn’t come up very much, so I haven’t gone back.

Worst advice you’ve been given? At [the clothing store] Chess King, circa 1988: “This sweater would look good on you. You should get it!”

If you could give someone a talking-to, who would it be? All those women on The View.

What do you do when a server at a restaurant brings you a horrible dish? If it’s wrong but it looks delicious, I would probably just eat it. If it’s horrible, I would think about all of the other meals I’ll have in life and just get through it.

Gutsiest thing you’ve ever done? I started taking piano lessons a few years ago and agreed to perform in a recital.

Do you have any tattoos? I have three. My tattoo artist, Hannah, gave me one that’s pretty large, covering my left shoulder down to the middle of my back; it’s abstract. And on my mid to lower back, I have a mirror image [based on] a door and a doorframe an ex-girlfriend took a picture of in Santa Fe. And on my right shoulder—this is the embarrassing part: I have some beautiful work encircling the very first tattoo I got when I was 18. I was walking to the grocery store and I found a package of Azteca tortillas that had a design I liked. I cut it out and took it to the tattoo shop, but now I have to hide that. It was a more popular brand than I thought.

What time is your alarm clock set for? I don’t use an alarm clock. I have seven windows in my room, and when I need to get up, those do the trick.

Dive bar or nightclub? Dive bar.

Drinks before 5 p.m.: always, sometimes, never? Always.

What’s your remedy for a tough day? I have these childhood friends, some since second or third grade, and I talk to them every day, so things roll off pretty easily with me.

How do you show someone you’re not interested? Being straightforward is the most important thing. Ultimately, if it came down to being an issue, I’d have to just be honest, since I would appreciate that coming back to me, too.

What did you do on your best date? We went for ice cream. We flew a kite we bought at Walgreens. I drank Manhattans—she had margaritas—at the Matchbox. And we had late-night French toast at the Golden Nugget.

Where would you like to get engaged? I don’t have a specific romantic scenario in mind; a proposal just has to be intimate, not a big public display, like on the board at Wrigley Field or a waiter bringing a ring in a crème brûlée.

What makes someone a Chicagoan? You have to have lived in the city for five years, and you’re not allowed to talk about how much better it was living where you used to live.

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