As the 2022 FIFA World Cup approaches at the end of November, a new bar that caters to international sports fans is preparing to revitalize a sleepy corner in West Town.
Passport, as the name suggests, is a bar where fans of soccer, tennis, and Formula 1 can find comfort. That’s not to say that Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, and White Sox supporters won’t be welcomed, but the city has plenty of establishments that show those contests on TV. Passport’s 17 screens will show the world’s sports.
The building, 1601 W. Grand Avenue, features two levels. Passport will take the upper floor with room for 90. A second bar focusing on fancier drinks will occupy the second. They’re calling the speakeasy-style bar Bootleg.
The plan is to open Passport by November 18 (before the matches in Qatar begin) at the southwestern corner of Ashland and Grand. The drinks will complement the global nature of the event with cocktails like an Old Fashioned from America, Caipirinha from Brazil, and Fernet and cola from Argentina. Veteran bartender PJ Wagner says he plans to swap out drinks so he can represent multiple nations. Opening drinks include Smokey Pina (mezcal, toasted spices, pineapple, coconut, lime), Mango Away (tequila, mango, Chamoy, lime, agave), and a dessert drink called “It’s B-A-N-A-N-A-S” (rum, coffee, banana, caramel).
Likewise, there are no plans for Passport to be a host bar for a specific country competing in the World Cup — unless someone asks. There’s also a winterized patio for all-season drinking.
Wagner says Passport won’t just be about games: “We want to be a neighborhood bar — you’re going to get hospitality and more.”
He mentions an L-shaped bar, and how this project, from Eddie Leenheer, owner of Azul Mariscos, feels unique. During the pandemic, too many restaurant groups played it safe with cookie-cutter concepts. Passport feels like a departure: “We’re not going to be exclusionary,” Wagner says. “We’re going to be welcoming, inviting — a safe space for everyone.”
The food’s from chef Marissa Tuñon who worked at Bazaar by José Andrés. The bar bite menu includes chicharron, panzerotti, drunken noodles, and bunnuelos de aire for dessert.
As far as the second bar, Bootleg will be a more intimate experience. It’s the antidote to too much sports; a way to forget about a tough loss. They’ll be the occasional DJ, lots of Champagne, emerald green and velvet banquettes, Andy Warhol-inspired wallpaper, and chandeliers.
“We want to revitalize the hospitality industry and make it fun again,” says Matilde Chittanavong, both bars’ general manager.
Also worth noting is that the boozy doughnut shop announced in 2018 is moving forward next door. It’s been four years and they’re still sticking with the name. Look for news on DonutSlut, 1605 W. Grand Avenue, soon.
Passport, 1601 W. Grand Avenue, planned for a late November opening.