Inside Room 13
The register at the “super secret” Room 13, located in the basement of Old Chicago Inn

About a week ago, I received a cryptic email that said there “may or may not” be a new bar opening near the corner of Sheffield and Belmont in January. Huh? The message continued, “There definitely won’t be prohibition-era slot machines, décor, music, and cocktails.”

The legend of Capone’s 10,000 speakeasies continues to enchant bar owners, who go to great lengths to recapture the rebellious spirit of the Roaring Twenties. (After all, everything is more fun when it feels a little bit illegal.)

Room 13’s owners, Todd and Virginia Hyatt—who also own the bed and breakfast Old Chicago Inn and the tiki bar Trader Todd’s—are taking the speakeasy theme very seriously. When I arrived earlier this week for a tour, the Hyatts met me at a black iron gate, located just to the left of Old Chicago Inn (3222 N. Sheffield Ave.), and led me down a narrow flight of concrete stairs to the inn’s basement entrance. There’s no sign, just a red light above a wooden door with a sliding window. Guests will be expected to knock on the door, and say, “I’m looking for the bar.” To which the man opening the window might reply, “There is no bar.” Or he might ask you for a password, so let’s hope you know it.

The 25-person space resembles an actual 1920s lounge—as if someone closed the door in 1933 and didn’t bother to reopen it until now. The room is lovingly outfitted with red velvet curtains, vintage posters of Pabst Blue Ribbon girls, and an old phone booth that still works. There are three seats next to the piano, where a torch singer in a sparkly flapper dress will belt out tunes on weekend nights.

Marc Gruber, who teaches wine appreciation and drink mixology at Northwestern University, is the master behind Room 13’s cocktail menu, a collection of beverages served during the 1920s. (Think mai tais and Singapore slings.)

So, come January, when exactly should you try to gain entry? For now, Todd Hyatt says that Room 13 will only be open on weekends from about 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. “We’ll start with that and see how it goes,” he says. But bottle service is available by special request on “other nights.” Just keep it on the QT.


CORRECTION 12/22/11:
When we first posted this item, we stated that Room 13 is located in Lincoln Park. Room 13 is actually located in Lake View. We regret the error and have corrected the post accordingly.