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Gaze Inside FAME, Opening Tonight on Division

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[Photos: Marc Much]

When an HGTV host and a celebrity chef open an art-focused Wicker Park lounge, what do you get? You get FAME, opening tonight in the Paradise Cantina space on Division. Bringing together chef (Sam Demarco aka chef SammyD), a celebrity designer (Antonio Ballatore), rotating artists and "artistic talent" as staff, the whole team is ready to take the Chicago stage at 5 p.m.

Chef Demarco, who general manager Adam Feichter says is "famous for deconstructing classics," is launching a menu filled with "twisted takes on American bar food." Case in point: "Italian Beef Dumplings" swimming in a sea of au jus and topped with housemade giardineira. Other small plates include "Poutine Skins," tuna "nachos," "samwiches," and even escargot. Many items utilize local purveyors, such as a BBQ pork eggroll made with pork from Lillie's Q.

The beverage program is built around nine infusions that sit in glass jars behind the bar and feature ingredients like bacon and brown sugar, sage and grapefruit, and garlic and habanero. Bartenders mix nine specialty cocktail suggestions with them. There's also a craft-heavy beer list, a small-producer wine list, and sake.

The interior, designed by Ballatore, has an industrial vibe balanced by the artwork. Many different seating styles fill the space: two parts loungey couches, three parts counter seating, one part communal tables, scattered high tops, a two-sided bar, and a 30-seat wood sidewalk patio that will hopefully open next week. Exposed wood, brick, and ducts give it a gutted feel, while a "mixology booth" that doubles as a DJ booth sits in a rear corner.

Brooklyn-based Lady Aiko provides the opening artwork, expect new pieces by other artists in around three months. All artwork is available for purchase.

Paradise Cantina closed in October but ownership kept FAME under wraps until three weeks ago. The project came together swiftly from there, adding another option to a strip that already houses Fat Pour, The Fifty/50, Innjoy, Small Bar, and Takito Kitchen. See how it fits into the neighborhood beginning tonight.

· FAME Taking Over Paradise Cantina on Division [-ECHI-]
· FAME [Official Site]