When the guys behind Three Headed Productions were drawing a blank on what to call their new spot in the old Four space, they put the challenge to their staff and offered $100 to whoever dreamed up the winning moniker. “Our GM at the Cans Bar in Milwaukee, Jay Stamates, came up with the name evilOlive in one minute,” co-owner Matt Lindner, 35, says.
Left: evilOlive patrons; right: a DJ spins above the crowd.
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“EvilOlive” is a palindrome, meaning it reads the same forwards and backwards, as does the street number (1551 W. Division St.); the conceit informs much of the bar’s concept. Drinks with names like Dr. Awkward and Yo Banana Boy, also palindromes, dot the menu, as do stuffed olives: about five varieties, served in martinis or by the plate. The owners-Lindner; Jay Runnfeldt, 35; and Tommy Wang, 34-like to think of the spot more as an olive bar than a martini lounge.
There’s very little left that resembles the space’s clubbier former incarnation, other than the layout and the 4 a.m. liquor license. The owners kept the two-level floor plan and an overhanging DJ booth, but ditched the giant disco ball and anything overtly flashy. “The club thing wasn’t working for the neighborhood,” Lindner says. “We try to create consistencies. Four didn’t have a focus. People really appreciate a hidden treasure in this neighborhood and tend to gravitate toward the music.”
To that end, evilOlive’s owners have added more booth seating and play mostly rock. They’ve enlisted DJ Uncle Milty, who usually spins house, to provide a rock-‘n’-roll soundtrack every Friday night. “Take Cans and bring it up to today’s date; it’s all modern rock and modern hip-hop,” Lindner says. (In addition to Cans locations at 1640 North Damen Avenue and in Milwaukee, the trio’s holdings include Salud at 1471 North Milwaukee Avenue and Junior’s at 724 West Maxwell Street, as well as a Cans in Charlotte, North Carolina, plus three more in the works: two here, one of which will be in Lake View, and another in San Diego.)
Also as at Cans, the vibe at evilOlive is much more low key than at Four-or at Big Wig before it-with a pool table upstairs and a black-and-white photo booth downstairs. “We just want people to have a good time,” Lindner says.
Michael Bisbee and Michael Kaulentis, the guys who brought us the 4 a.m. den of debauchery RiNo (343 W. Erie St.), are at it again with Manor (642 N. Clark St.), in the old Pasha space. The 4,200-square-foot club presents a brick and limestone exterior; a door with a signature crest marks the spot. We’re told Manor will be the only locale in the United States, and one of only ten venues in the world, with a state-of-the-art sound system by the U.K.–based designer and manufacturer Funktion One, so expect a heavy focus on the music. “We are doing our soft opening the first week of May but are keeping it low key for the first month so we can get everything running smoothly before we officially open mid-June,” VIP manager Kwesi Dei says. L.A.–based DJ StoneRokk is scheduled to appear June 14th; DJ Vice spins June 15th. . . . Everyone needs a Plan B: in late April, Ryan Golden and Mark Perres opened Plan B Bar & Kitchen (1635 N. Milwaukee Ave.), a sophisticated lounge featuring black chandeliers over the bar. The spot offers reasonably priced premium cocktails, a straightforward beer selection, and a bar menu (think “lollipop” chicken wings) designed by consulting chef Jason Paskewitz (formerly of JP Chicago and SushiSamba Rio) and executed by chef Jesus Baupista of the recently shuttered Iggy’s.
Photography: Barry Brecheisen