LINCOLN SQUARE — The owners of new Lincoln Square spot Gideon Welles would like the good people of the neighborhood to judge their eatery on its own merits, as opposed to associating it with the former occupant of the address.
"We want people to forget Latitude," said Eoghan (pronounced "Owen") Murphy.
Murphy, who spent seven years tending bar at O'Shaughnessy's in Ravenswood, is a member of the Gideon Welles ownership group, which took possession in May of the former 42 Degrees N Latitude space at 4500 N. Lincoln Ave. The partners include Robert Butterfield (who previously ran Erba out of the storefront now claimed by Due Lire), Terry Coughlin of Trinity Bar, brothers Jerry and Joseph Messner and Donard Lucy.
Patty Wetli says the bar features craft beers, but they won't be pretentious if you want a simpler draft:
Although Coughlin's involvement could hint at the makings of a bar group, his co-owners said Gideon Welles is a stand-alone enterprise.
"Robert has worked in this neighborhood for a long time; Don's kids go to school here. We're very familiar with the neighborhood," said Murphy, a Lincoln Square resident himself until recently.
The restaurant's new moniker is one way of cementing ties to the community — a reference to Welles Park across the street, which is itself named for Gideon Welles, secretary of the Navy under Abraham Lincoln.
But it'll take more than a nod to the 16th president to impress Lincoln Square diners, Butterfield acknowledged.
Gideon Welles is aiming for "restaurant-quality food in a bar atmosphere," he said.
"We're using locally sourced ingredients and a lot of organic ingredients" while keeping prices in the same range as neighboring bar and grills, he said. "I think it's a much better product."
Appetizers, for example, include the requisite wings and nachos, but the menu also boasts edamame hummus, shrimp in a blanket, skirt steak skewers and ahi tuna wontons. The burgers are made from a blend of rib-eye and brisket. Desserts include a mixed berry crostata.
"We'll fine-tune based on what people are eating," Butterfield said. "There's a couple of dishes you do just for yourself, and give us a little street cred."
The beer list has been created to serve a variety of tastes. There are more than a dozen craft beers on tap, but fans of Miller Lite will find their brew readily available as well.
"We're not turning anyone away," said Murphy.
The quiet opening — the name change just occurred within the last couple of weeks — has not been for lack of excitement on the part of the owners but rather out of caution, according to Butterfield.
"That last thing you want is to be flooded with customers and not able to handle it," he said.
Come Labor Day, he said, bar and kitchen staff should be firing on all cylinders, just in time for the busy fall season.
Patrons familiar with the old Latitude will immediately notice a handful of aesthetic changes, among them a revamped patio area.
"We really wanted to make the outside attractive," said Murphy, adding that taller grassy plants were placed in flower boxes along the patio's perimeter specifically to help filter dust that kicks up off the baseball fields at Welles Park.
For those still debating whether to give Gideon Welles a try, Butterfield is willing to meet them in the middle ... with brunch.
"I say this over and over: The brunch is crucial. It's almost a gateway to the neighborhood," he said. "If you can impress people with brunch, you can get them for dinner."
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