The bar at Telegraph
Need a little direction this non-holiday weekend? Go west, my friends. Telegraph, the Logan Square wine bar from the team behind The Bluebird and Webster’s Wine Bar, opens to the public at 5 p.m. today. The bar and restaurant—originally to be known as Smith, before a New York bar with the same name threatened to sue—held two "friends and family" dinners this week, one of which I finagled my way into after The Creative Director was invited.
We tried several items from chef John Anderes’ (Avec) food menu, which, with offerings like tartine of bean puree, baby squash and caviar ($7) and kippered walleye with orecchiette pasta, fava beans, and herbs ($16), promises to give Logan Square stalwarts Lula Café and Longman & Eagle a run for their money. On the booze side, I was in a rosé kind of mood on Wednesday, and my favorite was the lightly sparkling 2010 Ameztoi Rubis Txakoli ($9 a glass) from the Basque country in Spain.
The space has a rustic/chic feel, thanks in no small part to massive amounts of 200-year-old pine imported from Mexico, where Telegraph co-owner Tom McDonald has been living for the past year. We sat at a banquette table as we worked our way through the menu with another couple, but when I go back, I’ll try for a seat at one of the two bars, whose gorgeous, unfinished-looking wood begs for the patina of a few wine spills.
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Another West Side spot, the iconic The Empty Bottle bar and music venue in Ukrainian Village, has a new lease on life this weekend after closing for a few days to undertake a deep cleaning and general freshening-up. Last night, owner Bruce Finkelman told me what regulars can expect when they return to their haunt:
The Chaser: Why was this the "now or never" moment for a big cleanup?
Bruce Finkelman: When we first started The Empty Bottle (in 1992) it was kind of on a wing and a prayer, and we did things as well as we could, but it was very much a labor of love. As the years have gone by, there’s been a bit of tarnish on the old girl, and she needed some tender loving care.
TC: What kinds of changes will we notice?
BF: There are a lot of places where one might have been used to tripping over things, but maybe they won’t trip anymore. The floor might not have been as even as one would expect. People have lost precious alcohol or juice along the way, so we’ve managed to smooth some of those areas. And in the men’s room… some of our male patrons may be experiencing less odors. We’ve taken painstaking care to remodel and redo, except for a couple of the walls that we felt had reached relic status. All those years of posters and a number of sayings and well wishes in certain places—we felt those were too much part of the décor, and if it didn’t matter to the odor, we’d keep it.
TC: Which bathroom was worse, men’s or women’s?
BF: It could be argued that women might be a little more abusive to the bathrooms than the men. I dare to say that’s an opinion poll we could put out there. There’s a place in the women’s room wall that had been opened up, and we found everything from rings and hair clips to brushes and toothbrushes, which I found absolutely fascinating. We made a time capsule—sealed up the stuff for another generation to find later on—so they can kind of piece together what our generation was all about.
TC: Who did the work on the cleanup?
BF: One of my partners at Longman & Eagle, Robert McAdams. He’s such a valued craftsman in Chicago now. He cut his teeth as our repair and maintenance guy when we first opened, and now he’s built The Publican, Longman & Eagle, and he just remodeled Bite Café. What favorite Chicago place hasn’t he worked on? If you want to see a kind of maturation process, look at the shelves behind the bar and some of the stage building he did for us early on in his career. Now when you look, you’ll see how beautiful the new floors are, and the matching of the colors is fantastic. Robert is sort of the unsung hero—you look at the Bottle and say, "How is this place still standing up?" A lot of that is the Roberts of the world—and trips to Home Depot.
TC: What kinds of memorabilia are available for purchase from the pre-polished Bottle?
BF: We took pieces of the walls and ceilings that we felt were a little charismatic, and we made Empty Bottle coaster sets. We’ll auction them for our charity, which is the American Liver Foundation. I imagine there are many Empty Bottle regulars who will probably get assistance from that down the line. Might as well pay it forward, right?
TC: Any drink specials this weekend to celebrate the sprucing?
BF: Our drinks are always special. What we’re really excited about is our fabulous Friday show with Local H (9:30 p.m., $15) and Monday night with King Khan (9:30 p.m., $15).
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The patio at Vertigo Sky LoungeSEE YOU LATE(R): The Chicago City Council passed a measure this week that allows patios and rooftops to stay open an hour later than before; the new quittin’ time is the stroke of midnight. I checked in with some rooftop ringmasters to find out how they’re taking the news:
"We couldn’t be happier about this decision for us, our regulars, and travelers who enjoy cooler summer nights in an outdoor environment. It’s nice to see the city extend patio hours to accommodate such a wide audience. We proudly offer early patio hours on the weekend, and now late-night loungers have a chance to celebrate as well.” –Matt McCahill, food and beverage director at Vertigo Sky Lounge
“We think the new law is great! Who isn’t excited for an extra hour to enjoy Chicago’s summer during a great night out?” –RJ Melman, co-owner, Paris Club and its new rooftop lounge, Studio Paris
"The Terrace at Trump is excited to be able to welcome guests until midnight, seven days a week, effective immediately. Last call will be at 11:45. Our team will usher in the new hours by word-of-mouth and alert guests upon arrival. Before, our clientele still had at least an hour of lag time before leaving rooftop lounges and arriving at a buzzing nightclub. Now, guests will appreciate that the midnight closing time will help bridge the gap." –Philipp Posch, director of operations, Trump Chicago