PORTAGE PARK — Last year's closure of K&H Lounge, 3750 N. Central Ave., ended 71 continuous years for the small storefront as a low-key but beloved neighborhood pour house.
But Dan Latino is nearly ready to revive that tradition, with some extra TVs and fresh-made food to boot.
Latino's Waterhouse Bar Group, which operates The Country Club in Wrigleyville and two other pub-and-grubs around the North Side, bought the Portage Park storefront in December with plans for a fresh concept they've named Easy Street Pizza & Beer Garden.
"Each place has to have its own identity, and we're always trying to come up with a theme and menu that fits the neighborhood," Latino said. "Here, that meant preserving some of the vintage aspects so that people would still recognize it."
Along with his father and three other stakeholders, Latino has spent the past few months restoring the space's ornate tin ceiling and re-finishing its wooden walk-in cooler, while adding some modern facilities and decor.
They also acquired a next-door storefront with plans to build a full-service kitchen, building a food menu revolving around thin-crust and pan pizza while importing some of the most popular appetizers from their other locations, Latino said.
The eats will accompany a bar with a half-dozen original cocktails and a rotating list of 10 beers on draft, including domestic, imported and local craft brewers.
With a plush set of booth benches and enough flat-screen TVs to line every wall, Latino envisions a neighborhood hub where friends can order a pitcher and kick back for all nine innings of a Cubs game, he said.
"Portage Park is a great neighborhood, and I know there are a lot of Chicago sports fans around here," said Latino, whose grandfather, Sam Latino, owned Noodles restaurant in Jefferson Park before it closed nearly a decade ago.
The owners are pushing to open Easy Street in mid-April, Latino said.