Standard Bar/Grill in Wicker Park
“What’s with the sign? Looks like Barnum & Bailey presents a bar,” huffed The Creative Director as we pulled up beneath the many-bulbed marquee announcing Standard Bar/Grill, the latest incarnation of the Wicker Park watering hole most recently occupied by Loft Six Ten.
“It’s festive!” I replied, attempting to cheer TCD, having already dragged him along on one arduous activity that evening. “Come on. Drinks on me. And some mac and cheese, if you want.”
We’d stopped at Standard last Saturday night to compare the bar to its predecessor, a spot that took about two years for its owners to open—which it eventually did, in 2009, before closing roughly the same amount of time later. What was once a bottle-service joint with a dress code is now a “high-energy sports bar,” with a newly installed, 25-foot garage door in front that’s bound to draw drinkers in droves come summer.
Fairly standard: an exterior view
“The nightclub scene is on its way out,” said co-owner Randy Roginski when I gave him a call this morning. Roginski was part of the Loft Six Ten partnership but now owns Standard Bar/Grill with a reconfigured group (Cortland’s Garage, The Stretch). “In general, people want a more casual experience. We want to be a neighborhood spot with great comfort food.”
Among the only remnants of Loft Six Ten’s hard-partying heyday is the huge wrought-iron light fixture that Roginski says is actually a repurposed gear from an old piece of machinery: “We had to get a structural engineer in here to hang it, and it’s really too big to move. Plus, it’s cool.”
Now the bi-level space is practically wallpapered in TVs, which flashed scenes from the Celtics game as we sipped cocktails at the bar (a vodka and soda for me, $6). The bartender, an attentive Matthew McConaughey doppelganger who looks like he’s been doing the P90X workout, handed us a pair of gigantic laminated menus. We chose a plate of “made to order” guacamole (I’d wager our $6 brownish serving was made some time earlier) and classic mac and cheese (satisfying, $7). A DJ who had climbed a ladder up to his second-story perch played Sublime’s “What I Got,” and TCD and I stared as the Celtics’ Rajon Rondo fell hard on his elbow, causing the entire bar to erupt in a sympathetic “Whooooa!”
Standard it was: a sports bar on a Saturday night, thankfully devoid of Snooki wannabes (see the Jersey Shore and Axe body spray references among Loft Six Ten’s Yelp reviews), serving up game scores and buckets of domestic beer to a casual neighborhood clientele. On this stretch of Milwaukee—which is still trying concepts on for size, nightlife-wise—it should be interesting to see whether Standard or last week’s other new opening, Bar Bar Black Sheep, has found something that fits.
In the meantime, this deal might convince you to give the place a try: Standard will take 23 percent off your entire tab tonight if the Bulls win.
Photograph: (interior) Steven Johnson Photography