WICKER PARK — A Division Street bar closed since the mid-1970s will reopen on Monday as Queen Mary, a cozy maritime-themed cocktail bar inspired by the building's landlord, a widow who shuttered the tavern her husband operated after he passed away.
"This project goes beyond adding a fresh coat of paint and creating a cocktail menu; it is about unearthing a time capsule in a way in which Mary would be proud,” said Matt Eisler, co-founder of Heisler Hospitality with designer Kevin Heisner.
Eisler was referring to Mary Kafka, a 90-something-year-old woman who is a well known face in the neighborhood, often referred to as the “Queen of Division.” Familiar with the history of the bar and wanting to give the former Polish tavern new life, Eisler and Heisner formed a friendship with Kafka, and with her blessing, dubbed their next project Queen Mary in her honor.
“As a group, we’ve always had a personal interest in restoring Chicago’s neighborhood taverns,
but Queen Mary is different," Heisler said of the 1,100-square-foot spot that features many of the bar's original elements such a mahogany bar, wood-paneled walls and exposed brick.
Other design highlights at Queen Mary, 2125 W. Division St., include mermaid coat hooks and purse or bag hooks under the booth tables, along with electrical chargers, a hard-to-avoid modern touch.
The dimly lit watering hole offers a total of 42 seats either at the bar, tables for two along a wall or in group-friendly high-backed booths.
A long vacant former bar, at left, and what it looks like today. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
After debuting at 6 p.m. Monday, Queen Mary's hours of operation will be 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. weeknights and until 3 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The cocktail menu, created by Dan Smith (Barrelhouse Flat) and Mony Bunni (Sable), offers eight seasonal rotating scotch, gin and rum-based cocktails, with names like "The Nor'easter," and "Albatross."
A martini and a "Navy Strength Old Fashioned" will be offered all year long. All cocktails are $12.
The menu also includes tea punches served from enamel pots for the table ($36), as well as a daily rum-based grog served hot in winter and cold in the summer ($10), a sizable spirits list and wines by the glass.
Two classic English beers on tap, a light and a dark, will cost $7 per glass; the mild dark and Irish red are proprietary brews exclusive to Queen Mary from Aquanaut Brewing Company.
Onsite at Queen Mary on Friday, Bunni, who along with Smith will oversee a team of 10 workers, admitted to being "obsessed" with the bar.
"I was pouring practice drinks and my friends said I was glowing, it's like I gave birth. This is my baby," Bunni said.
When asked what she likes so much about the spot, Bunni said that, like Heisler Hospitality's other spots such as the Sportsman's Club, the space has "a comfortable homey feel."
"You can go on a real romantic date or show up in sweatpants. Both work here," Bunni said.
Queen Mary, 2125 W. Division St. Hours are 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday-Thursday; 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. weekends. For more info, visit Heisler Hospitality's website or follow Queen Mary on Instagram.
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