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Owen & Engine, the British Pub Known For Its Burger, to Close After 14 Years

Bo Fowler is closing her Logan Square landmark to focus on her family and her health

A brick building with ground-floor windows and a sign hanging over the front door
Owen & Engine will end a 14-year-run in August.
Owen & Engine
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.

Owen & Engine and Bo Fowler made it through the pandemic’s worst as the acclaimed chef reopened her British pub in early 2022 after eight months. It wasn’t just COVID that Fowler was fighting; she was coming back from a heart attack in early 2020. This was all happening as she managed a second restaurant, Bixi Beer, also in Logan Square.

But Owen & Engine’s return will be short-lived. Fowler on Friday morning announced she’s shutting down O&E next month. Fittingly, the restaurant’s final service will be on a Tuesday. That’s the day Owen & Engine hosted its regularly scheduled burger, beer, and bourbon special. The thick-cut burger, made with beef from Slagel Family Farm and a bap baked onsite, reigned as one of the city’s best burgers.

Tuesday, August 29 is Owen & Engine’s last day marking the end of a 14-year run. The restaurant was one of the city’s best and a regular member of the Eater Chicago 38. Fowler, famously stoic, told her staff about the closure on Tuesday.

“I’m not going to lie,” Fowler tells Eater Chicago, “It’s the first time they ever saw me cry.”

Fowler, a Korean immigrant raised in Minnesota, reiterates that this was a ”deeply personal decision.” In the wake of her heart attack, the soon-to-be 55-year-old was ordered by her doctors to roll back hours, but she continued to bounce between Owen & Engine and her second restaurant, Bixi Beer, also in Logan Square. She says she was working 80- to 100-hour work weeks. Her commitment to her restaurants caused her to miss family events. Bixi has picked up business and Fowler says private events have stabilized the restaurant. But the strains on her family and personal lives meant something needed to change. She had to pick between Owen & Engine and Bixi.

“I love my work, but it can’t sustain the rest of your life,” Fowler says. “I’m disappointing the people in my life.”

“I don’t know how other restaurant owners operate more than one restaurant.”

Fowler stresses she’s healthy but also casually shrugged off scares including a colon cancer diagnosis from about one and half years ago. Surgery caught it early, she says. But separately, a career in restaurants means she doesn’t sleep well, worrying about details like how long paneer is pressed.

“It keeps me up at night when I see a dish is not done at the level it should have been done at,” Fowler says.

Her restaurants — including Fat Willy’s, the rib shack which never reopened after March 2020 — share the chef’s obsession with sourcing and working with farmers. At $22, O&E’s burger might be more expensive than most customers were accustomed to, but Fowler made sure it was made with premium beef and adorned with top-flight ingredients. Fowler poked fun at the fast-food industrial complex in 2015 when she aped Burger King’s Halloween special and made her burger with a black bun. Fowler didn’t want to keep Owen & Engine alive by cutting corners or changing her restaurant’s ethos. They weren’t going to buy charcuterie or sausages from a vendor. The meats must be made onsite.

This was already an expensive proposition due to increased labor and the price of ingredients. The pandemic continued to raise costs. Still, Fowler was adamant about keeping her standards, but wondered if the public is ready to pay the proper cost of food, the cost it would take for workers to earn livable wages. That made her question O&E’s fiscal future.

Owen & Engine remained closed for the majority of the pandemic after March 2020 when the state shut down on-premise dining. In January, nearly two years later, it reopened. In Fowler’s social media statement, she calls Owen & Engine her “dream neighborhood restaurant, a place where I was truly happy.” The two-level restaurant sports narrow walkways and rustic charm. The bar’s beer program was lightyears ahead of its time, celebrating both local and international brewers. The “engine” is a reference to the hand-pulled pump perched at the bar to give customers an old-fashioned beer pour. “Owen” is the name of Fowler’s nephew. He was 3 years old when he asked his aunt to name her restaurant after him.

The restaurant was also a Logan Square pioneer, far before developers swarmed like vultures, providing the neighborhood an upscale option that was actually accessible to the established community. Across the street from Regal Cinemas City North theater, countless customers feasted at Owen & Engine before and after a movie. Fowler quips that many moviegoers assumed her restaurant would feel like a chain. She wanted to give them a better option.

Other British items, from fish and chips, to bangers and mash, to British-Indian korma, made it to Fowler’s menu. For O&E’s comeback, Fowler leaned on serving brunch all week with artisan pancakes and pastries. Her efforts were acknowledged with an Eater Award for comeback of the year. Fowler remarked that they only won because “they didn’t quit.”

Pancakes with a pat of butter and bacon.
Goodbye to these fluffy pancakes and rashers.
Ashok Selvam/Eater Chicago

O&E’s staff has been invited to work at Bixi, Fowler says, and they’re hiring. They plan to add a new sushi menu. Fowler and husband Arden Fowler opened Bixi in 2018. The brewpub offers a medley of Asian items — the $18 crab rangoon is unlike most Cantonese spots, loaded with lobster and crab that meets the chef’s high standards. Bixi will keep her busy and she’s got other projects. For instance, next week, she’s collaborating with chefs Won Kim (Kimski and Stephen Gillanders (S.K.Y., Apolonia) for a dinner at Gillander’s restaurant Valhalla inside Timeout Market food hall.

Though Fowler abhors takeout, she acknowledges there’s space at Bixi for a ghost kitchen to perhaps keep the O&E burger alive. She’s exceptionally proud of what she accomplished.

“[Owen & Engine] is a place where all employees, former and current, have become family. You as guests were the best in Chicago,” Fowler wrote via social media. “We have always treasured the memories we had the privilege of staring with all who walked through our doors.”

BiXi Beer

2515 North Milwaukee Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 904-7368 Visit Website

Owen & Engine

2700 North Western Avenue, , IL 60647 (773) 235-2930 Visit Website