Jim Meehan is one among a select group of bartenders with a national following, and when he announced he’d be opening a Chicago bar with Heisler Hospitality, the country’s drinkers took notice. Prairie School features interiors that pay tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and tap into a wave of Midwestern nostalgia blended with Japanese sensibilities. The bar opened about a month ago in Fulton Market. Here are some early observations.
The concept: Meehan’s reputation at PDT (Please Don’t Tell) brought high expectations as he returned to Chicago; he grew up in the suburbs. Generally, if customers were fans of PDT, they’re fans of Prairie School. Yelper Far S. declared: “THIS IS WHAT A COCKTAIL BAR SHOULD ASPIRE TO BE,” and wrote that “We can't wait to make our way here again. Sublime.”
The drinks: Meehan’s drink recipes don’t disappoint. The Johnny’s Beef-inspired lemon ice impressed Yelper Stephanie L.: “Lemon ice was really great and refreshing...not sweet...exactly how I like my drinks. Old fashioned — excellent. Loved the clear ice with the etched logo...you know how to win a girl over!” Meanwhile, Meehan is “in top of the mountain,” writes jimhowes on Instagram.
The food: The food from Jared Wentworth, who helped Logan Square’s Longman & Eagle achieve Michelin-star status during his tenure, has probably gone under the radar. Meehan wanted to pay tribute to his days as a Badger attending college at Madison, Wisconsin. The Japanese-style cheese curds are winners, wrote Ryan L. Jeffrey, via Google: “Fantastic drinks, and the best cheese curds I've ever had.”
The reservation policies: The reservation policies have confused some customers early on, and some have left angry reviews. One customer, Patrick S., complained about an alleged time limit via Facebook (they were 40 minutes late, he admits). Another, via Google, was angry about a rule that only parties of four or more may sit at the bar.
The interiors: Meehan grew up in suburban Oak Park, home of many of acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s works. Heisler and Meehan decided Wright would be where they’d draw inspiration for the design: “Really cool Frank Lloyd Wright mock up (actually shocking this hasn't been thought of before) in an intimate setting...a good representation of FLW,” wrote Yelper Taylor C.
The prices: Customers, almost universally, enjoyed the quality of the drinks. However, the prices raised eyebrows. Either the ingredients are ultra-premium, or Heisler needs to charge more than average to afford the bar’s West Loop/Fulton Market address. Cocktails are $15 each.