After more than two years of battling pandemic challenges as modern Jewish deli Jeff & Judes, the space at 1024 N. Western Avenue in Ukrainian Village was ripe for a do-over. And so, on Saturday, July 16 the corner spot at Western Avenue and Cortez Street finalized its transformation into Do-Over Diner, launching with cocktails, all-day breakfast, and late-night hours.
Greasy spoon diner culture played significant roles in both executive chef Hanna Coleman (Floriole, Cafe Marie-Jeanne) and beverage director Sam Yar’s early food memories and they hope to recreate that same joy and excitement they enjoyed in their youth. A longtime Chicago baker, Coleman worked at Jeff & Judes as bakery and deli manager; Yar founded the Robey hotel’s bar program in 2016 and spent three-and-a-half years climbing the ranks at German-Southern beer hall Funkenhausen.
“My family wasn’t rich or anything, so diners were our treat,” says Yar, who was born in diner-heavy New Jersey and moved with his family to suburban Milwaukee as a child. “I have a very tight feeling with diners — they just hit differently for me. It’s an inner feeling of peace and comfort that I think really drives what we’re trying to push here at Do-Over ... we’re not going for Alinea, we’re going for comfy and happy.”
Do-Over embraces the qualities that have made the American diner revered with a cozy, no-frills atmosphere with reliable, affordable, nostalgic dishes, from griddled smashed burgers and patty melts to hash browns and fried pickles.
Coleman, a suburban Waukegan native, also associated diners with special occasions in her youth. “There’s a place called Full Moon that’s a truck stop diner we’d go to in school after dances or late at night,” she says. “It feels like a very Midwestern memory to me — the excitement when you get there, it was such a treat.”
Despite this devotion to the ethos of classic diners, the mere existence of Do-Over’s beverage director role (not to mention its liquor license) distinguishes it from many Chicago greasy spoons. Still, Yar hasn’t strayed from his pursuit of simplicity with options like a lavender vodka soda with a lavender salt rim and his spin on an Old Fashioned, tweaked with amaro and falernum for brightness. He’s also offering plenty of beer, ranging from local craft brews to cheapish standbys like PBR and Old Style.
“We feel it fills a void in the area,” says Yar. “There’s a lot of places [nearby] that don’t have food, so you can come here and fill your belly really well. Greasy spoon is the best drunk food, in my opinion, but that doesn’t mean we have to be drinking trash.”
The bones of the restaurant, which before Jeff & Judes housed prison-themed burger spot Lockdown Bar & Grill, haven’t changed much in the weeks since the deli closed, but owner Ursula Siker has made some design alterations to imbue light-hearted diner vibes. Chicago artist Garrett Lawrence created soaring indoor and outdoor wall murals with playful, abstract splashes of color, and Siker added a pergola to cover a sidewalk patio that seats between 20 and 30. She also squeezed two additional tables inside, which brings indoor capacity to a total of 36 seats. “Jeff & Judes was more of a clean, bright, airy space, but since we’re open late now, we wanted something more playful and welcoming,” says Siker.
Explore Do-Over Diner’s new style and menu in the photographs below.
Do-Over Diner, 1024 N. Western Avenue, Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday; 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday; 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.