Wicker Park's growing up, and the owners of The Tankard want to grow up with the neighborhood. The Tankard, a new bar/restaurant replacing Lucky's Sandwich Co. at 1635 N. Milwaukee Ave., will soft open on Thursday, said co-owner Patrick Wrona. But growing up isn't about being boring: A variety of tater tots, chicken wings and late-night food service are part of mix.
"Think cheese curds instead of mozzarella sticks," said Wrona, who also co-owners Compass Bar in Lincoln Park.
As hotel and condo construction continues around the corner at the intersection of North, Damen and Milwaukee avenues, Wrona wants to offer the neighborhood something more than a sports bar. He described the interiors at The Tankard as warmer and more comfortable. Though they had good times at Lucky's, he described that bar as having a "frat boy look." They've removed the shuffleboard in attempt to go more upscale. They'll still have eight televisions if fans needs to catch the big game. Wrona is joined by partners Philicia Mizell and Rob Colon.
"We kind of wanted to create a bar where we wanted to hang out," Wrona explained. "We're not getting hung up on the next thing or the next wave of food."
The tater tots section represents their playfulness with tachos (nachos with tots instead of chips), Buffalo-style (Buffalo hot sauce drizzled, blue cheese, celery slivers) and bacon-wrapped tots (wrapped with pepper jack and bacon). Instead of steak frites they'll swap fries for traditional tots, but they'll offer the special tot flavors if diners really feel sassy.
The Tankard isn't wine heavy, but Wrona admitted that he wanted to elevate the available options in Wicker Park. They'll have eight wines by the glass and an additional 30 to 40 bottles ranging from $40 to $120. The drink list will include five to six classic cocktails, 12 draft beers and 15 beers in bottles.
The soft opening is Thursday, and the grand opening is Aug. 11. They'll serve food until 11 p.m. most days and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Right now, Wrona is most impressed by the support from colleagues in the restaurant industry.
"For a major city, it's really a close-knit group," he said.