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Billy Sunday Named Among Best New Bars in America Before It's Even Open

By Victoria Johnson | January 23, 2013 3:46pm

LOGAN SQUARE — Billy Sunday is so hot, it's already one of the best new bars in America, according to Details magazine.

And it hasn't even served one customer.

That has a lot to do with the reputation owner Matthias Merges brings from his Avondale restaurant, Yusho, not to mention Yusho mixologist and partner Alex Bachman, who will be stirring up high-end cocktails with homemade bitters, out-of-production liquors and handcrafted spirits.

"They knew we were going to take that cocktail philosophy [from Yusho] and bring it here," Merges said of the premature Details write-up.

The bar is named after the early 20th century evangelist William Ashley "Billy" Sunday in an obvious ironic jab to Sunday's support of the temperance movement and prohibition.

Sunday turned to evangelism after a career in baseball, spending his first five seasons playing for the Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs) from 1883 to 1888, according to a website dedicated his life.

Bachman, Merges and co-owner Brian Tijan could be seen hustling in out of the new cocktail bar's  prime location on the square to start serving customers this week.

Inside, old photos, paintings and fixtures picked up from antique shops and flea markets across the Midwest adorn the walls, combined with a few new pieces that maintain the late-19th century, early-20th century motif.

In keeping with that theme, Merges described Billy Sunday's food as "focused around early Sunday supper and Sunday picnics" of that time period, with menu items such as chicken liver mousses, stews and smoked trouts created by Chef John Vermiglio of Graham Elliot and Table Fifty-Two fame.

"Just things that have a lot of farmhouse kind of technique," Merges said.

Billy Sunday is located at 3143 W. Logan Blvd. and could be open as early as tonight but by Thursday at the latest, according to Merges.