Here’s good news for those who enjoy cocktails and frequent the intersection of Milwaukee/Ashland/Division: a new bar catering to happy hour revelers is opening this summer near the Polish Triangle. Neon Wilderness is from Brad Bolt, the co-creator behind the Bar DeVille, the beloved watering hole that closed in July 2017 in Ukrainian Village. Bolt is returning with his co-conspirators Matt Eisler and Kevin Heisner of Heisler Hospitality (Lone Wolf, Pub Royale, Queen Mary, Sportsman’s Club, etc.) to open the bar at 1270 N. Milwaukee Avenue.
Neon Wilderness will be a throwback to old Chicago drinking culture with drinks like “Polish Broadway” — a Zubrowka vodka Old Fashioned. The bar’s name comes from famed Chicago writer Nelson Algren’s 1947 short story anthology. Bolt, who was nominated for a Jean Banchet award in 2015 for best mixologist, is still toying with the drink list. Expect eight cocktails, champagne by the bottle, and 15 canned beers. The insides will feature a 35-foot concrete bar and banquettes along the wall, according to a news release.
There’s a bit of a void for cocktails in the area after The Bedford closed in April 2017. CTA Blue Line riders who use the Division stop have a new spot to frequent. Neon Wilderness takes over the space formerly occupied by a cocktail bar called The Exchange. It later became a reggae spot called Esso.
The bar’s a collaboration with Bolt, Eisler, and Heisner, but it’s not officially under the latter’s Heisler banner. Also of note: Neon Wilderness isn’t meant to be a substitute for Bar DeVille. Life continues in DeVille’s former space under new ownership. It’s now known as Damen Tavern. But Bolt and Heisler still plan on reopening Bar DeVille at a new location.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson said she’ll share more details on Neon Wilderness in the coming weeks.