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Cocktails with Backstories Reign Supreme at The Monarch

By Alisa Hauser | January 18, 2013 6:31pm
 Chef Andrew Brochu was executive chef at Graham Elliot before coming to The Monarch.
Chef Andrew Brochu was executive chef at Graham Elliot before coming to The Monarch.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK — Royalty is on display at Wicker Park's newest bar. But not William and Kate. The Monarch's menu draws inspiration from famous historic European royalty and American celebrity icons.

Ever heard of George Remus?

He was known as "King of the Bootleggers," who made millions, lost it all, killed his wife and got away with it, according to a footnote on the backside of a cocktail menu, devised by a mixologist who prefers to be known only by his first name, Brady.

The George Remus contains bourbon, pimento dram, and whisky-aged bitters and is part of the "Modern" lineup, whereas the "Legacy" cocktails play homage to European history and names its concoctions after Russian rulers and historical places like the plaza where King Louis XVI was executed in 1793.

All 10 cocktails at the Monarch Restaurant and Bar, which opened earlier this week at 1745 W. North Ave. are priced at $11.

But there's more than specialty cocktails, beer, and wine.

Chef Andrew Brochu, 31, left his executive chef post in the fall at West Loop's sleek Michelin-rated Graham Elliot restaurant, 217 W. Huron St,  to helm the much smaller and lower-profile space on a lesser traversed section of North Avenue three blocks east of the busy Milwaukee-Damen-North intersection.

Brochu, who works out of a small open kitchen across from the narrow back half of the restaurant, said he made the job change because he's known Colin Burke, the owner of Monarch for a couple of years and liked the casual concept.

A Wicker Park resident, Brochu said that his favorite item on the menu of late is the wings with dill pickle sauce.

"I like wings, I like pickles," he said said while getting back to putting a soft pretzel with beer cheese onto a plate during a very busy Thursday night.

The pretzel is the only item on the menu reminiscent of the German sports bar Uberstein which opened in April of 2010 and underwent a rebranding to The Monarch.

Burke said the impetus for the change in concept was due to the fact that a German sportsbar attractted too narrow of an audience.

"We can all identify with famous American contemporaries, growing up we're surrounded by them. The King of Rock, the Queen of Soul, the Sultan of Swat. They are our version of royalty and in Europe you've got real monarchs and kings," said Burke.

For those on a budget, the good news is that the lofty theme doesn't carry over to The Monarch's prices, which range from $7 for a crostini appetizer, which comes with a jar of pimento cheese and a quaint squirt bottle of house made hot sauce, to $21 on the higher end for a glazed beef cheek with melted onion and purple potato.

For locals who might miss Uberstein, there are still the same flat-screen TVs on the wall playing sporting events, along with plenty of bar seating in the front half of The Monarch if you just want to skip the food and see what a cocktail called "Don't Ever Play with Guns" tastes like.

Beginning Jan. 27, the restaurant will launch a Sunday brunch menu, available from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Monarch Restaurant and Bar, 1745 W. North Ave., is open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Sunday, with the kitchen closing at 10 p.m. weeknight and 11 a.m. Saturday.  Ph: 773-252-6053. Twitter: @MonarchChicago.