Outside The Ogden

Blackhawks fans walking from their parking spots to the United Center for last night’s game peered with interest into the windows of The Ogden (1659 W. Ogden Ave.), a new upscale sports bar and restaurant that is currently in soft-open mode.

The Ogden ups the ante in a neighborhood that offers few pre- or post-game options: supersized flat screens hang over the bar, individual 22-inch TVs decorate the booths, and a nicely executed interior (one of the co-owners is a general contractor) includes a raised lounge area and a mix of industrial elements with interesting wood treatments and a hefty black granite bar.

An hour before last night’s showdown against the Columbus Blue Jackets, The Ogden—already an official Blackhawks bar—seemed to be drawing its target audience with jersey-wearing fans looking to imbibe and kill some time before the game. From the list of 18 drafts and 30 bottled beers (most in the $5 to $6 range), I ordered a Hitachino White Ale ($10), a deliciously bright Japanese beer.

“We just got our sign up two days ago, says manager Jon Buczynski. “In light of the fact that we haven’t publicized at all yet, the foot traffic has been really good so far.” The Ogden is still putting the finishing touches on the décor (one hopes purse hooks are on the list), and it’s test driving the compact-but-tempting food menu by chef Rodney Stanton (Bite Café, Longman & Eagle). Look out for grilled turkey wings ($10), decadent Animal Fries smothered in pork ragu and Roelli cheese curds ($11), and a $10 juicy burger on a buttery bun (my dinner last night) with a side of thick-cut fries.

The Ogden will eventually offer specials on game days, but for now the bar is easing its way into smooth operation mode. If you have tickets for tonight’s Bulls vs. Wizards game, I’d recommend a burger and a brew at The Ogden after the big win—and as the temperature starts to drop, try for a seat by the fireplace.