Signs for Bracket Room, a new sports bar near UIC’s campus, have been up since early 2016, but the owners say they will finally open the space on Monday at 1315 S. Halsted St. It’s a Midwest expansion for the brand which debuted in 2012 in Arlington, Virginia. They’ll feature more than 50 TVs, 40 draft beers, and never-frozen upscale bar food.
Chicago will be Bracket Room’s fourth location. As the name suggests, the spot fashions itself as a haven for sports, particularly for college basketball and March Madness. Co-owner Chris Bukowski is a Chicago-area native and is excited to give college students and University Village locals a space to enjoy their teams. They weren’t in a rush to open in Chicago. They took over three retail spaces and needed to meld them into a restaurant.
While Bukowski lamented the typical fried foods served at sports bars, he praised two fried items: The tater tots and Philly cheesesteak egg rolls. The tots are a signature item, something that the bar became obsessed with developing, Bukowski said. They’re served with a choice of 15 sauces including a secret sauce, sriracha aioli, spicy ketchup, and a habanero.
The space is larger than the original in Virginia, sporting garage door windows that swing out. There’s also a fireplace. The atmosphere is for sports obsessives; they’ll have TVs in the bathrooms and customers will be able to hear play by play in the stalls.
The bar will even offer bottle service, something that Virginia laws prohibit. Management also wants to host live music. Bukowski called it “a dream” to open in Chicago. He hoped Bracket Room would debut in Chicago, but the Virginia opportunity fell into his partners’ laps and they couldn’t refuse.
Making friends with neighbors is important. Bracket Room’s attempting to develop a rapport with the community and sponsor UIC sports teams. It’s an exciting time of the year for sports fans with NFL preseason, college football starting, and baseball entering the stretch drive. That’s an ideal opening time for a sports bar, according to Bukowski. Fans can check out Bracket Room on Monday.