The veteran publicans and spouses behind one Chicago’s top soccer bars are poised this month to launch a new English-style tavern, bringing their popular take on the country’s pub culture to the edge of Lincoln Park.
Partners Jamie Hale and Julia Shell are aiming for an early March opening for the Albion Manor and its upstairs cocktail den, the Parlour at the Albion, at 1480 W. Webster Avenue. Drawing on their industry expertise and elements from their existing businesses — beer-and-footy hotspot A.J. Hudson’s Public House in Lakeview and stylish cocktail bar the Dandy Crown in River West — they plan to treat the new pub as a mix of both.
“We’re going to merge the two concepts into one and see how that goes,” says Shell. The couple hadn’t planned to embark on a new venture, but when English-born Hale stumbled across the former Distilled Chicago space, he was struck by its location on the edge of Chicago’s massive Lincoln Yards development. The co-owners were also happy about its large size, as they often are forced to turn away patrons from A.J. Hudson’s on game days.
That likely won’t be a problem at the Albion Manor, which has two stories that are 1500 square feet each. The first floor’s long bar runs through more than half the room offering a few dozen seats throughout the downstairs space. In addition to a handful of high-top tables, patrons can also cuddle up inside five snugs — small, cozy rooms seen inside English and Irish pubs that once were designed to preserve the anonymity of those inside — built by Hale and Shell’s son. Each is named for one of the couple’s children and (for now) lone grandchild, and houses its own TV. There will be between 10 and 15 additional TVs mounted on the walls around the barroom.
The Albion Manor will have a full bar, offering 12 draft beers, and 50 kinds of bottled and canned brews. Bar goers can expect a similar selection to that seen at the Lakeview pub, including Danish import Carlsburg — A.J. Hudson’s sells the most Carlsburg in the entire nation, Shell says — along with Guinness and a slew of English beers. Naturally, executive chef Mark Hill (A.J. Hudson’s) will introduce a menu with riffs on British pub fare like a cold ploughman’s lunch, mussels and clams cooked in Guinness and coconut milk, and a sloe gin butter cake trifle. Once operations are running smoothly, the team hopes to serve a traditional roast for lunch on Sundays, likely consisting of beef, potatoes, vegetables, and Yorkshire pudding.
Over time, Shell anticipates that the Albion Manor will accumulate sports memorabilia like scarves and signed posters (at A.J. Hudson’s, those have usually come as gifts from patrons), but for the time being, drinkers can expect dark blue hues, textured wallpaper, and framed street photography of fashionable British teens in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s that Shell and her daughter hand picked at London’s Museum of Youth Culture.
Upstairs at the Parlour at the Albion, however, the vibe will be completely different, Shell says. In keeping with its sister spot in River West, the Parlour will take an eclectic approach to design with pops of color, textured wallpaper, and custom floral wall murals by Chicago artist Cyd Smilie. The space includes a fireplace, a small bar that will seat eight, and loungy couches and chairs to seat about 24. Though there will be a TV, the screen adjusts to look like wall art when it’s not in use.
Though it may serve as a convenient overflow area for especially busy matches, the Parlour will be generally devoted to cocktails created by beverage director Sarah Syman (the Dandy Crown). A menu isn’t yet finalized, but Shell promises a wide selection of craft drinks that are interesting rather than intimidating. “Like the Dandy Crown, [the drinks] aren’t overly touched, they’re not super pretentious,” she says. “They’re just good cocktails that we’re proud of.”
The Albion Manor and The Parlour at The Albion, 1480 W. Webster Avenue, Scheduled to open in early March.