When Scott Horwitch and his brother were in their 20s, they nursed hangovers accrued on late weekend nights by eating Chinese food and watching football on the following afternoons. The practice of combining egg rolls and pigskin became a fun routine during the fall, says Horwitch, a former GM of both the Underground in River North and Faith & Whiskey in Lincoln Park. Horwitch, a co-owner of Uproar in Old Town, plans to bring a bit of that sibling nostalgia with him to Logan Square when he opens a new sports bar in the space that housed Rocking Horse for 12 years at 2535 N. Milwaukee Avenue.
Roundhouse will make most major sports packages available on the bar’s 30 or so screens. This might be jarring for fans of the Rocking Horse, a divvy neighborhood fixture which closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There aren’t many sports bars in the area, but Horwitch thinks locals will appreciate what he’s planning: a tavern that honors dive bars, but without the bartenders who snarl at customers if they ask them to tune the TV to a particular game.
The bar’s layout will remain the same, but they’ll lighten up the space and add garage doors to the front windows. They’re replacing the booths. The back patio, a neighborhood treasure, won’t be altered until spring.
“Sports brings a select, vintage kind of aesthetic,” Horwitch says. “Roundhouse definitely has a nod to that iconic neighborhood bar scene.”
But Horwtich doesn’t want Roundhouse to feel like a cheap knockoff, he says the bar will bring something new to the neighborhood, including an eclectic menu. Staples like burgers and wings are givens for sports fans, but Rocking Horse was equipped with a large kitchen, and Horwitch and his partners have hired chef Ariel Bagadiong to make the most of the space. Born in the Philippines, Bagadiong has cooked food at several Downtown Chicago hotels. He was most recently executive chef at Spin, Susan Sarandon’s table tennis bar in River North. Horwitch says his chef’s life and career experiences will allow them to supercharge the menu. He’s imagining Italian beef fried rice, orange chicken sandwiches, and more. T
he Chinese American influence is a nod to Horwitch’s beloved 20s. The menu brings him personal nostalgia: “But you need some authenticity,” Horwitch says. “Especially in Logan Square. You can’t get away with that in this market.”
Horwitch is part-owner of Uproar, which has the same ownership group as Roundhouse — Uproar Hospitality. That group includes Dante Deiana, a DJ with a robust social media presence. He’s been closely associated with Barstool Sports, the popular and infamous media company. Another partner is Rick Douglass, co-owner of Wrigleyville staple Barcocina. He’s close to opening a second location in West Town in the former Tecalitlan at 1814 W. Chicago Avenue.
Owners understand that some won’t like the bar’s transformation, as it could epitomize Logan Square changes in recent years. Developers demolished the Megamall along Milwaukee Avenue in 2017 to make room for a project that includes a new neighborhood staple, Andros Taverna. The Greek restaurant packs the crowds most nights and Horwitch wants to ride that new wave of energy. At the same time, he notes that his landlord, Martin Barboza, is a long-time Logan Square resident. The plan to open a sports bar has his blessing.
“We know there are folks who are going to watch the Final Four, that type of stuff,” Horwitch says. “Right now there’s not necessarily a need or a want for a sports bar — it’s a little different for the area. But we feel we’re ahead of the curve.”
Those curious about the name can breathe easy knowing a roundhouse is a type of kick utilized in martial arts. Horwitch is a fan of ‘80s martial arts movies, such as the Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle, Bloodsport.
Roundhouse, 2535 N. Milwaukee Avenue, planned for an October opening.