WICKER PARK — A sandwich that's been called the "most life-changing grilled cheese in America" by Esquire magazine is coming to Wicker Park — but with a twist.
Chris Johnston, owner of Cheesie's Pub and Grub in Lakeview, is opening the beloved grilled cheese spot at 1365 N. Milwaukee Ave., and adding a french fry bar to the mix. Whiskey Business will be adjacent to Cheesies, and offer up to 20 choose-your-topping Poutine dishes in an atmosphere themed around the 1980s movie "Risky Business."
Despite the name, Johnston is still working to secure a liquor license for the spot and plans to offer several types of whiskey and craft beers, along with non-alcoholic and alcohol-infused smoothies, with flavors such as Mud Slide, Granny Smith Apple and Orange Dreamsicle.
Vacant since a family-run furniture shop burned down six years ago, the 5,000 square foot eatery will be sandwiched between Harold's Fried Chicken and Futurgarb boutique, and across from Emporium Arcade Bar at 1366 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Cheesie's will have a capacity of 95 patrons, while Whiskey Business, which will feature round conversation-friendly cushioned booths, will seat 60 diners.
A rooftop patio spanning both restaurants will accommodate 120 people and has already been approved by the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce, the Wicker Park Committee and Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), Our Urban Times reports.
At a community meeting Wednesday, members of the Wicker Park Committee voted 12-0 in favor of supporting zoning changes that will Johnston to bring the two businesses to the neighborhood.
"He's a forthcoming, high energy guy, we trust him," Ed Tamminga, chairman of the neighborhood group's Preservation and Development subcommittee, said of Johnston.
Johnston told the group that the patio will have "fake grass" and will feature a mobile projector screen for playing movies in the warmer months.
Johnston also said he's interested in exploring the idea of offering, "live acoustic music events under the stars" on the patio.
He also shared some menu previews, including the poutine bar concept.
After choosing from several type of fries (sweet potato, steak cut, shoe string, etc.), eaters will select from ground beef, shredded chicken and Sloppy Joe, among other meat toppings.
Veggies and sauce toppings include corn, tomatoes, black olives, hard-boiled egg and "Ketchup Mayo," according to a preliminary draft menu that promises "many more options to come."
In addition to fries, Whiskey Business will offer "infused burgers" stuffed with Jalapeno poppers, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese and kale, along with four types of salads and pasta dishes.
A weekend brunch will be dubbed "The Breakfast Club," in keeping with the 80s and 90s theme, Johnston said.
Johnson said he's "hoping to open in April" if all goes well with permits and the construction process. Hours would be as late as 5 a.m. on weekends and 2 a.m. during the work week.
"We're hopeful for their success and look forward to grilled cheese sandwiches in the neighborhood," Tamminga said.