The Boundary, from auto body shop…
It’s practically impossible—not to mention inadvisable—for one bar to try to satisfy everyone, but The Boundary (1932 W. Division St.) comes pretty damn close, without making too many sacrifices. “We’ve designed a space that allows us to be most things to most people,” Nate Hilding says of his and co-owner Jason Akemann’s architectural gem on the border of Ukrainian Village and Wicker Park. What could have come off as bland—or, worse, overreaching—instead finds a happy medium in a laid-back destination spot, the kind of bar where you can imagine spending an entire evening without fighting off legions of drunkards or blowing your paycheck on drinks.
Hilding and Akemann also co-own Trace (3714 N. Clark St.), but that trim Lake View mainstay bears no resemblance to this 5,200-square-foot venture. In creating The Boundary, the guys gutted a former auto body shop in an 80-year-old building and transformed the space into a modern warehouse, preserving some of the original flavor (check out the bow-truss ceiling) and add-ing a stone fireplace, flagstone columns, and copper tiles. “We tried to use earthy elements whenever possible,” Hilding says. An all-glass façade brings the neighborhood in; even the 12 plasma TVs are tucked away strategically, making sports viewing possible but not mandatory.
The common denominator drawing the crowds—generally, a 20- through 40-something mix of good-looking folks from greater West Town—is the beer list, heavy on craft brews such as Breckenridge Avalanche Ale ($4 a bottle) and Dogfish Head Midas Touch Golden Elixir ($6 a bottle). There’s also a full bar menu of standard American fare. On our visit, music seemed to function mostly as background noise, but service was swift, and our waitress, Jackie, was never far.
While The Boundary’s owners are hoping to cater to the masses, they aren’t baiting the hook with overplayed teasers like Golden Tee. Instead, a lone shuffleboard table holds court in back. “It’s a tavern classic rarely found in Chicago,” Hilding says. Another rarity: women’s restrooms with flattering lighting and plenty of mirrors. Why go anywhere else?
Photography: Chris Guillen