Cool, sounds like somewhere I’d go, if it wasn’t too crowded. The old Pontiac Cafe was located in a sweet spot, just north of the park that gives Wicker Park its name. Their food wasn’t anything special, but sitting outside on a bright, sunny day was a pleasure. Glad to hear the new owners are only tweaking the restaurant.
The rumors were swirling for months about Wicker Park’s old Pontiac Cafe space (1531 N. Damen Ave.)—and the plans that Alexander, Paul Kahan and the rest of their cronies from The Publican, and Peter Garfield (Alexander’s Violet Hour partner) had for it—before last week’s revelation that it would be a still-unnamed taquería. (ETA: late October.) We finally got some details.
D: What was with all the rumors?
TA: My partner Peter and I were presented with the possibility of taking over the Pontiac a year and a half ago, but that was when we were working on The Publican. The farthest thing from my mind was to do another operation. Everyone thought we were being secretive, but there was no secret.
D: What ideas did you discuss for the space?
TA: The last thing we wanted to see was another sports bar come in to the neighborhood. Paul started talking about barbecue, and other ideas with a Mexican twist. Our first ideas centered around the music. We wanted old country from the fifties to the seventies, alt country, and the Bakersfield sound that originated in California in the fifties and sixties. We’re going have a turntable behind the bar, and the bartenders will play these albums.
D: So is it a restaurant or a bar?
TA: It’s a bar next to a little tiny taquería. Seven or eight items. We don’t want the neighborhood to think a restaurant is going in here. Think of Dairy Queen. The way those windows slide open. That’s the way the kitchen will be. So if you want a taco, you walk up to the kitchen window and order it.
D: And the booze?
TA: There will be about 50 obscure whiskeys. About 40 tequilas that a lot of people don’t know about. We’re not going to do the in-depth cocktails that we do at the Violet Hour, but they are going to be amazing. The beers are predominantly from Texas and California, Mexico, and some from Chicago, of course. And we will be one of the least expensive bars—trying to do a $1 draught and a $3 glass of whiskey.
[Click to continue reading This Old Pontiac Is No Clunker – Dish – September 2009 – Chicago]
Actually sounds like an Austin, Texas bar, circa 1979, before Austin boomed into tech central, and the Armadillo World Headquarters turned into an office park. I like that Bakersfield sound, actually, and the Outlaw Country era of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and pals, plus any bar that plays Uncle Tupelo on a regular basis will be ok with me.
Hope it succeeds well enough to stay in business, but not so well that I can’t find a table when I want one.