After many stops and starts, due mostly to zoning issues, Leader Bar is finally ready to open its doors. The Irving Park/Avondale upscale sports bar will officially open Super Bowl weekend and bring a new flavor to the neighborhood. The 3,500 square-foot space comprises dark wood, a beautiful floor made of Brazilian Ipe wood, a massive wraparound bar, exposed brick walls, spacious brown leather booths, exposed vents and even authentic elk antlers hanging above a fireplace.
The 115-seater, which will add another 100 when the side and back patios open in summer, features 22 flat-screen TVs and will have live music during the week. The menu, created by chef Oscar LaSalle (Martini Park), will have upscale bar food like BBQ baby back ribs, half-pound Angus beef burgers, rice croquettes, lamb lollipops, Guinness-battered onion rings and the Leader fry basket.
Leader will also feature 14-inch pizzas with the option of adding more than 30 ingredients, including poblano peppers, Virginia ham, fried egg, Genoa salami and, of course, sausage and pepperoni. The bar will have a rotating flatbread of the day, but will also have a set menu of five flatbreads, including buffalo chicken, the Mexican (with mole verde, salsa fresca and chorizo) and the Steak House (marinated grilled skirt steak, caramelized onion, cremini mushrooms and buffalo mozzarella).
While the neighborhood is changing, they still wanted to create a place where locals can feel comfortable and welcome. Leader Bar owner, Mike Matuschka (Uberstein, Crobar), put a lot into making this place accessible, including installing a sound system by Tommy G. and offering free valet.
"This far west there really isn't that much," said general manager John Merlo. "We have a beautiful beer garden and we want it to be a neighborhood oasis."