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Hopsmith Tavern Aims to Bring 'Anti-Club' Vibe to Rush & Division

Gutted former Snuggery space hopes to up the ante when it comes to bar food.

A worker tends to the second floor of the Hopsmith Tavern.
A worker tends to the second floor of the Hopsmith Tavern.
Ashok Selvam
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

The owners of the Hopsmith Tavern have gutted the two-level former home of the Snuggery in hopes of bringing an "anti-club" concept to Rush and Division.

The project, slated for a mid-December opening at 15 W. Division St., will be "the most food-centric establishment" of the eight in the Big Onion Tavern Group portfolio, partner Erik Baylis said. They're going to use OpenTable for online reservations.

Chef Jim Heflin, who revamped the menus at Big Onion's Brunch and Diag Bar and Grill, developed the menu at Hopsmith. Baylis believes employing a chef shows how serious management is about the Hopsmith's food. A variety of tacos, including homemade chorizo and barbacoa, highlight the menu. There's also a special appetizer sampler for hockey fans that comes out in a replica Stanley Cup trophy that management had specially fabricated for the restaurant.

"Hopefully no ones steals them," Baylis joked.

Big Onion's vision is a neighborhood bar where locals can watch a game on of the 25 televisions and grab a good meal. His partners feel Rush and Division is ripe for a revival, and that nearby residents need a more upscale establishment. Baylis stiffens up when hearing the phrase "bar food" when describing the menu. He wants to restore Rush and Division to the 1980s glory days, referencing the Rob Lowe and Demi Moore feature "About Last Night."

The first floor will have a library-like feel, as the back bar will be styled like a card catalog with the taps coming out of the cabinets, said Baylis. There will be two table beer taps on each floor and seating for 150 combined combined.

The bar's nerve center will be the first-floor keg room, with kegs behind glass windows. It's the same concept employed at Big Onion's other Division Street bar, Fatpour Tap Works, further west in Wicker Park. They'll have 30 drafts on tap. Baylis hopes to work with the alumni from Michigan State University to make the bar a Spartan game-watching location.

The second floor will feature a moon roof for a patio feel. There's also room for dancing, a DJ table and a bar made out of a 1954 Volkswagen Beetle wagon. A fake bowling alley is also part of second-floor decorations.

"Where the first floor was for a man in his library, the second floor is where he could cut loose," Baylis said.

Another Big Onion establishment, Woodie's Flat, is only a few blocks away down on Wells Street, but Baylis isn't worried about cannibalizing business.

"There's 5 million people in the Chicago area, and there's a couple hundred thousand between here and Woodies," he said.

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