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Countdown to the Northman Cider Pub: What Took So Long? We Asked

 The Northman, 4337 N. Lincoln Ave., is set to open March 8, with chef Sean Sanders in the kitchen.
The Northman, 4337 N. Lincoln Ave., is set to open March 8, with chef Sean Sanders in the kitchen.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli; inset, The Northman

NORTH CENTER — It's been a long wait for The Northman cider pub, announced in January 2014, and no one knows that better than managing partner Aaron Zacharias.

"Constantly — that has been unending," he said of the "When are you going to open?" queries.

Even after a March 8 debut was fixed — pushed back from late February due to a chef shake up — doubters remained.

"I won't believe it until I walk through the door," one skeptic posted to Facebook.

So what's been the hold up?

Zacharias wasn't about to "throw anyone under the bus" when he spoke recently with DNAinfo Chicago.

But he would say that a shift in direction back in 2014 caused major delays.

"About nine months in, we decided to switch up what we were doing," including scrapping plans to enclose the property's courtyard, Zacharias said.

The most recent hiccup came when chef Cleetus Friedman parted ways with The Northman and Fountainhead, which Zacharias and his team operate along with The Bar on Buena.

Sean Sanders, formerly chef/owner of Browntrout, was brought in to helm the kitchen at The Northman and Fountainhead and given free rein to rework the cider pub's menu.

"We pretty much started from scratch," said Zacharias, who insisted "we're going to be totally ready" on March 8.

"We gave [Sanders] all of our influences," he said. "[Friedman] handed over a wonderful staff. That gives Sean an amazing amount of support."

Come March 8, customers will also have an answer to what Zacharias said was actually the number one question related to The Northman, 4337 N. Lincoln Ave.: "Are you going to have beer?"

In a word — yes.

"This isn't going to be an apples-only bar. It's a whole beverage program with cider as a definitive focus," Zacharias said. "Enjoy the cider candy store but we'll also have a more aggressive cocktail menu than at our other places."

In the time that it's taken The Northman to open, a Lou Malnati's has popped up across the street and the owners of Fork have announced Knife, at 4343 N. Lincoln Ave.

Zacharias sees those developments as nothing but good.

"It's great to have options on that block and a half," he said. "Dine with us ... or go there and stop in and have a cider after."

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