Friday’s opening day in Wicker Park for Ina Mae Tavern & Packaged Goods, the long-awaited bar and restaurant that took over the street corner where the Beachwood Inn stood for 65 years. While the Beachwood, at the corner of Beach and Wood, was an iconic dive, Pioneer Tavern Group — the owners of Frontier, Lottie’s Pub, and Pony Inn — gutted the space to bring a taste of New Orleans to Chicago. Customers can expect po-boys, fresh seafood sold by the pound and fried or boiled, and powdered sugar beignets.
Pioneer has worked hard to transform the space. They’ve raised the ceiling to 12 feet and lengthened the bar. Customers can now go to the second floor and peer through a window which will give them a view of the main bar room. This isn’t an homage to the French Quarter, as Frontier chef Brian Jupiter has crafted a tribute to his great grandmother, the bar’s namesake. When he took Pioneer co-founder Mark Domitrovich on R&R trips to New Orleans, he showed Domitrovich that there was more to the city than Bourbon Street. Ina Mae wants to capture that feeling of an off-the-beaten path New Orleans po-boy shop. Domitrovich and Jupiter feel that there’s nothing in Chicago like Ina Mae.
“It’s definitely not a Bourbon Street remake,” Domitrovich said. “It harkens to the neighborhood and its unique quirks.”
There’s also the matter of the pick-up windows that will allow families to cool off in the summer with a New Orleans-style Sno-Ball. These special frozen treats come in flavors like strawberry, blue raspberry, wedding cake, and Georgia cream. There’s potential for a second pick-up window in the back, but the Ina Mae crew will see how customers react before opening it.
The po-boys come in classic Nola varieties including fried or grilled shrimp, fried oysters, and roast beef. Besides the traditional varieties, there’s also Nashville hot chicken, fried green tomatoes, and an alligator sausage.
Domitrovich stressed that the drinks will be vintage, not just classic. These are cocktails that have lost popularity through the years and are in need of a revival. Those drinks include true blue daiquiris and Ramos gin fizzes — a drink that takes 10 minutes of shaking for authenticity’s sake. For those who don’t want to wait, there are draft cocktails and around eight beers on draft, too. Wine selections will include around 14 selections by the glass and sparkling wine on draft.
The packaged goods portion isn’t a throwback to classic Chicago bar/liquor stores. It’s more like a corner store selling pickles and sauces made by Jupiter. Originally, Domitrovich and his crew wanted to do more inside the space, but they had to scale back plans due to the building’s small size. They did experience a bit of a hiccup during demolition when a wall came down. Domitrovich said they didn’t lose any work done during renovations, but it did delay the opening.
Come back later in the week for a peek inside the space before the opening.