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West Town Favorite Split-Rail to Open Cocktail Bar Underneath Restaurant

Dorothy should be a comfy neighborhood lounge

Split-Rail’s getting a basement tavern.
Nick Fochtman/Eater Chicago
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Since opening in the summer of 2017 in West Town, Split-Rail has gone through a series of transformations. Chef/owner Zoe Schor left Ada Street in the Elston Industrial Corridor to open her own restaurant and at Split-Rail she debuted with a clever menu that combined nostalgia with the chef’s avant-garde techniques. But about a year later, Split-Rail went more casual, focusing on one of Schor’s specialties: fried chicken. It also started take out and delivery. This summer, the space is going through yet another evolution as Schor and Split-Rail GM Michelle Szot are opening a basement cocktail lounge called Dorothy.

The two are gunning for a summer opening underneath Split-Rail at 2500 W. Chicago Avenue. Schor’s a fan of neighborhood dives like Archie’s Tavern, and said Dorothy will complement the taverns in the area. They’ll turn the space into a cocktail lounge where they’ll try to cater to young and older customers. As Schor and her friends approach their mid-30s, they’ve come to appreciate an alternative to “shot and beer bars.” The space once housed a sports bar and restaurant. There’s an old wooden bar with a marble countertop that they’re cleaning up. However, it won’t be a sports bar as the TVs from the old iteration won’t return.

“It’s been closed for seven or eight years,” Schor said. “Long before we got in.”

Zoe Schor and Michelle Szot sitting on top of the bar at Dorothy, the duo’s upcoming cocktail lounge.
Dorothy/Nicole Bitonti

Schor only provided a tease of what to expect, as the two just applied for a liquor license. Szot will oversee the drink list and they’ll have a wide variety of drinks, from draft beers, to Japanese whiskies, to wines. As Split-Rail’s evolved to cater to vegans and gluten-free diners, Schor wants that same spirit of inclusion to permeate downstairs. Szot worked with Schor at Ada Street and Szot’s also worked at Kingston Mines in Lincoln Park, Grange Hall Burger Bar West Loop, and Queen Mary in Ukrainian Village.

Music will play a part in the ambience, as Schor’s been playing records at restaurants since her days at Ada Street. They may host an occasional jazz band or DJ but are still working out the details.

Schor said she instantly fell in love with the space after her first tour. She saw the basement before she toured the upstairs and contemplated how a restaurant would fit downstairs.

“We’ll have libations for all,” Schor said. “Whatever your style is, we’ve got something.” Stay tuned for more details.


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