WICKER PARK — In fast turnover news, a tapas lounge that closed in mid-January plans to reopen as a sports bar with a late-night kitchen just in time for college basketball's "March Madness."
Baris Yuksel, owner of a People Tapas restaurant just south of the Milwaukee-Damen-North avenues intersection at 1560 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park, is ready to announce his next project: High Noon Saloon.
People Tapas closed Jan. 20. The next day, the same management team got to work to transform the space into High Noon Saloon, which boasts 11 flat-screen TVs and will be a Fighting Illini and Blackhawks bar.
Interior designer Karen Herold used hickory barnwood floors and black-and-gold lamps lined with fringe to help develop what Yuksel describes as "an Old West saloon with a bit of a feminine side."
An antique piano salvaged from Craigslist will be reconfigured into a glass-topped DJ table. Vintage filigree wallpaper is juxtaposed against flat-screen TVs and rustic wooden ceiling beams.
Yuksel said Tuesday that after 7½ years of tapas, he was "ready for a change."
"People got sad about People [closing], but we are excited about a new concept, new ideas. People was a cool spot for Wicker Park in 2005, but there's a different demographic in 2013."
To suit modern — and poorer — times, the menu at High Noon Saloon will be "very affordable," according to Yuksel, with tacos and handmade tamales going for $3 each, for instance.
Chef Ruben Beltran, a veteran of Topolobompo and Frontera Grill who most recently worked at Maya Del Soul in Oak Park, will be creating dishes like nachos topped with brisket, tortilla soup, shrimp flautas, and weekend brunch favorites like huevos rancheros and eggs benedict.
Classic Mexican desserts, such as churros with hot chocolate dip and fried ice cream, might show up on the menu, too, though Yuksel added it's "still being tweaked."
When asked about other Mexican food options near the six corners intersection, Yuksel said that the sports bar atmosphere at High Noon Saloon will be "very different from Big Star" and High Noon Saloon's menu will be "about four times the size."
Three bottled beers planned for the opening month are Pipeworks Brewery's Unicorn Revenge, a double IPA; North & Western, a Farmhouse Ale, and The Brotherhood, a Belgium abbey that was a collaboration between Pipeworks and Drew Fox, founder of 18th Street Brewery in Gary.
Similar to People, there will be seating for 99 people (17 at the bar) in addition to the sidewalk patio in summer months.
Though most of the wait staff has not been retained, according to Yuksel, there'll be familiar faces behind the scenes.
The same kitchen staff that was at People, save for its chef, will be at High Noon Saloon, along with a longtime management team of bar manager Ryan Yates, and assistant managers Rita Alexander and Colin Dennis, the latter who's worked with Yuksel since People Lounge's inception in 2005.
High Noon Saloon plans to open March 11 at 1560 N. Milwaukee Ave. The phone number is 773-227-9339. Hours are 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday-Friday; 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday.