The fat lady has sung for Opera, which closed on December 31st. The Scout (1301 S. Wabash Ave.; no phone yet), owned by Chris Bravos (The Pony Inn), George Archos (Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe), and Jeff Wolfe, is its planned replacement. "It's going to be a neighborhood eatery and upscale sports bar," Bravos says. "We're going to go with something cozy, intimate, and lodgey." With almost 300 seats, 30 TVs, a wide-ranging beer menu, and fancy bar food, the place will fill an unmet South Loop need, Bravos says. The Scout's owners are shooting for a May 1st opening, as soon as they finish the remodeling, chef hiring, and their orienteering merit badge.
A lot of interesting tidbits in this piece. The good news is that it sounds like they're shooting to open this spring and it sounds like the people behind this concept have some good experience. Not sure if Jerry Kliener is still involved, but regardless, it's an interesting read. Personally I've never been to the Pony Inn in Lakeview, but a couple of the blog's contributors have been and seem to think it's a good place. Some other people might remember hearing about the Pony Inn since it was where many of the Blackhawks celebrated the night they got home from winning the Stanley Cup. Hopefully they repeat and decide to christen The Scout with a visit from Lord Stanley's Cup.
We can dream, can't we? Anyway, our assumption is that the concept will be adapted to the South Loop crowd as opposed to the Lakeview crowd (whatever we mean by that), but regardless it's good to know we're getting some new, fresh blood into the neighborhood.
The other interesting thing that struck us is that it's shooting for a cozy, intimate, lodgey concept. It's a big space, so achieving intimacy could be difficult, but we like the idea and hope it's possible. Given that it currently seems like we have five feet of snow on the ground lodgey sounds perfect as long as that means big comfy couches, a foosball table and some dead animal hanging from the wall.
Finally, even though people are quick to write-off the proverbial "sports bar", in our opinion that's foolish. When we look at some of the cities "best nightlife" areas they're peppered with sports bars. Everyone knows Lincoln Park and Lakeview are littered with these types of places. But if you look to trendier more alternative areas such as the North/Damen/Milwaukee corridor or Division street in Wicker Park, most of these places also could be characterized as "sports bars". Yes they might not be fratty, but they have a ton of TV's and every time I'm there they seem to be playing a variety of sporting events. Remember people, this is Chicago not the meatpacking district in Manhattan.
All we're saying is that new, unique concepts should be encouraged. Yes, Opera was a South Loop pioneer, but most people can attest that it has been languishing behind the other places on this block. Flo & Santos is fresh and unique. Zapatista is always packed and festive. And Gioco is Gioco...a staple that people seem to genuinely enjoy.
We're excited for The Scout and am sure it will fit into the neighborhood perfectly.
Now if we could only do something about the boarded up windows at Ole' Charwood.
(Hat tip: Anonymous Commenter!)