The Garage opened in Gladstone Park last week.
Much to my mother’s chagrin, I am a sometime passenger on the back of The Creative Director’s motorcycle, so I was heartened last night to find a row of hogs parked outside my destination: The Garage, a brand new bar in the Gladstone/Jefferson Park area, just a few blocks south of Superdawg. “These are my people,” I thought, having barely recovered from a numb posterior brought on by last weekend’s cruise to summer camp in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.
Jet’s, next door, has been around long enough to draw regulars.
I gave the bikes a onceover as I waited outside for my friend Eva, who lives nearby. I had received a tip about the bar from an acquaintance who also lives up that way, but after a fruitless Google search, I had emailed Eva to see if she could give me directions.
“I know the place,” she wrote back. “It’s next door to Jet’s Public House. Look up the address for that. See you there at 9.”
Jet’s was packed, with a crowd on the sidewalk patio and lots of laughter drifting out of the bar. The Garage has a similarly appealing big-windowed façade, but having opened quietly only eight days ago, it was decidedly calmer. Still, all the bar stools were taken, so we climbed the stairs to the rooftop patio, which I predict will become a popular neighborhood spot once The Garage picks up some local buzz.
The rooftop—which reminded me of one that opened this summer in my own neighborhood, Lincoln Square, above Gene’s Sausage Shop—is come-one, come-all casual, with festive umbrellas, blooming flowerboxes, a string of party bulbs, and a rock ’n’ roll soundtrack to compete with the cicada chorus. An efficient, smiling waitress talked us into a round of mojitos ($5 each; fruity flavors available). While we tried to pretend that the cigarette smoke wafting around us provided a charmingly vintage aroma, Eva gave me the neighborhood scoop. “This building is owned by Michael Jettner’s family [the guy behind Jet’s],” she said as an armada of helicopters, surely part of Obama’s security detail, chopped overhead. “I think it’s been, like, three things before this—most recently, the Rusty Armadillo.”
The rooftop at The Garage
On our way out, I stopped to chat with The Garage’s owner, Jesse Roman, who shared the lowdown on his venture. Five things to know if you go:
1. Roman and his business partner/The Garage’s chef, Tim Camastro, crossed paths for years in Evanston, where Roman owns a car wash and Camastro owns an Italian restaurant called Rollin to Go. When Roman decided to open a bar—his first—in the neighborhood where he and his girlfriend, Lisa Kennedy, now live, he called up Camastro, who put together an affordable menu; think mini meatballs ($4.95) and chicken parm and Italian beef sandwiches ($6.95).
2. The Garage isn’t officially a biker bar, but you’ll find a lot of leather vests there. “I’ve been riding motorcycles all over the country for a long time,” says Roman, who was wearing a Harley Davidson T-shirt. “Bikers are welcome here, and so are families and everyone else.”
A fellow Garage patron, Shawn O’Brien, with his Harley
3. The black-and-white photos hanging around the bar were taken by Kennedy’s brother, Don Ritt, a shutterbug who works for a Chicago construction company and often finds himself presented with unusual photo ops.
4. The cocktail list of the moment is certainly summery: piña coladas, mojitos, and the like, mostly $5 each. Some 65 beers are on offer, from $2.50 domestic bottles to the $9 St. Bernardus.
5. Roman thinks The Garage has the only rooftop patio in the general vicinity—maybe even on the Far Northwest Side—and he hopes the neighborhood will come out and enjoy. “This place already feels like an extension of our home,” he says.
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