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Billy Sunday - Logan Square cocktail bar from the Yusho team

Billy Sunday - Logan Square cocktail bar from the Yusho team
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  • Billy Sunday - Logan Square cocktail bar from the Yusho team

    Post #1 - January 26th, 2013, 6:59 pm
    Post #1 - January 26th, 2013, 6:59 pm Post #1 - January 26th, 2013, 6:59 pm
    Chef Matthias Merges's new, speakeasy-style cocktail bar officially opened in Logan Square on Thursday (1/24/13), and after looking forward to it for months, I stopped in on Friday for a few rounds and some snacks. Good times. :)

    The long, narrow space is absolutely beautiful and also comfortable. Original ceiling and floors have been restored and they, along with many other artful touches, give the space a rich, polished feel that is very much Chicago. Lighting fixtures throughout the space are gorgeous, and the parquet bar and tabletops provide a great feel, especially if you're a Celtics fan. :wink: For those who are not enamored with the high, backless stools at Yusho, they'll be happy to settle into some padded, upholstered stools that have backs and are of a more conventional height. There are 16 (or so) of these seats at the bar, as well as a few standard-height 2-tops and 4-tops, too. The space holds about 50 people total.

    At the helm is GM Alex Bachman, who also curates (and still oversees) the bar at Yusho. He has a great vision for cocktails, especially food-friendly cocktails, and the Cocktail Menu reflects his distinctive aesthetic. We tried several cocktails and enjoyed them quite a bit. Being the boozehound that I am, my favorites were the Old Fashioned (Bourbon, Rhubarbamaro, Cube Sugar, Essential Oils) and the Cocktail (Malted Rye, Ambergris Laced Palm Sugar, Water, North Bay Bitters). But I also really enjoyed a taste of a Hoar's Frost (London Dry Gin, Orange Curaçao, Lemon, London Dock Rum, Grenadine) that my wife ordered. Alex had occasionally made them for me back at Yusho. The house Negroni (Old Tom Gin, Vermouth di Torino, Gran Classico Bitter, Flamed Orange), which I tasted, is also fantastic -- a very well-balanced rendition.

    We tried a couple of items from the Food Menu: Garbanzo Bean (Whipped, with Preserved Lemon & Pickled Pistachio) and Pig Ears (Fried, Malt Vinegared, served with Cornichon Aioli). The garbanzo dish was a creamy, lemony take on hummus and I thought it was great. We also enjoyed the pig ears, which played very much like pork rinds. They were light, crispy and greaseless, and I really dug the cornichon aioli with which they were served but they were even better dipped in the garbanzo whip. Other offerings -- like croquettes, pickled sardines, smoked trout, braised rabbit and duck confit -- were very enticing and seem like perfect bar fare. I look forward to checking out more of the menu on upcoming visits.

    A bit later I tried their original take on a Daiquiri (Rhum Agricole Blanc, Jamaican Overproof White Rum, Lime, Passion Fruit, Pineapple Bitters), which features 2 of my favorite rums (La Favorite and Wray & Nephew 151) but I ordered it near the end of our session and the drink was a bit to sweet for where I was at that time. Still, I could see starting with it and enjoying it. By the end of our session, veteran barman Michael Rubel (Violet Hour, Big Star), who is back from a stint in Louisville, was making our drinks. It was cool to see such an experienced drinkslinger behind the bar. I told him that I needed to finish with something a little boozier and he made me a very tasty riff on a Manhattan, which incorporated Zucca rhubarb liqueur instead of sweet vermouth. I liked how the drink finished quite a bit.

    There's also a Beer & Wine Menu, which we didn't explore at all this time around.

    Prices seem very much in line with the neighborhood. Cocktails were $10 each and the pig ears and garbanzos were $7 and $5 respectively. I think this is going to be a very cool addition to the Logan Square drinking scene.

    =R=

    Billy Sunday (website)
    3143 W Logan Blvd.
    Chicago, IL 60647
    (773) 661-2485
    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #2 - January 26th, 2013, 7:09 pm
    Post #2 - January 26th, 2013, 7:09 pm Post #2 - January 26th, 2013, 7:09 pm
    How busy was it when you were there? I was thinking of stopping by tonight but don't care to wait out in the cold.
  • Post #3 - January 26th, 2013, 7:51 pm
    Post #3 - January 26th, 2013, 7:51 pm Post #3 - January 26th, 2013, 7:51 pm
    fropones wrote:How busy was it when you were there? I was thinking of stopping by tonight but don't care to wait out in the cold.

    By 8 it was plenty crowded. There was no line out the door but there were no open seats either. It was 2-3 deep at some parts of the bar.

    =R=
    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #4 - January 29th, 2013, 10:50 pm
    Post #4 - January 29th, 2013, 10:50 pm Post #4 - January 29th, 2013, 10:50 pm
    If the bar is at capacity, they will take your cell number and call you when space opens up.

    The bar is conveniently located directly next to Dunlay's On The Square, which is a decent at best, though acceptable place to kill 30 minutes.

    When I went last Saturday, they quoted me an hour wait. I went next door, had a beer, and about 30 minutes later the doorman gave me a rang, and I walked right over.
  • Post #5 - February 12th, 2013, 8:42 am
    Post #5 - February 12th, 2013, 8:42 am Post #5 - February 12th, 2013, 8:42 am
    I know yelp has it critics here, but the reviews for Billy Sunday (on yelp) actually made me laugh out loud a few times - so I though others may enjoy the read, if in a sarcastic mood:

    Billy Sunday on Yelp

    my favorite is the guy that says, "ironically naming a bar? stupid. they should have named it "the better-than-you, flannel shirt, not that interesting, mustache lounge"

    I've never seen a place so criticized for making too much effort to be creative, and perhaps being a little too popular
    I love comfortable food, and comfortable restaurants.
    http://www.bbqsupply.com
    http://thebudlong.com
    http://denveraf.com
  • Post #6 - February 12th, 2013, 11:31 am
    Post #6 - February 12th, 2013, 11:31 am Post #6 - February 12th, 2013, 11:31 am
    There's probably a somewhat interesting story to be written about the publicity campaign for this place - you don't get Details (ugh) to name you one of the Best New Bars in America before you've even opened without doing some spadework.

    From all the descriptions - on LTHF & the ever-reliable Yelp - it does seem the place could best be described as "hoity-toity". However - newsflash to Frank Bruni et al - nobody's making me go there.

    I might, though. I just might go there and order a Schlitz.

    Just to be ironic.
    fine words butter no parsnips
  • Post #7 - February 12th, 2013, 1:21 pm
    Post #7 - February 12th, 2013, 1:21 pm Post #7 - February 12th, 2013, 1:21 pm
    I've been there twice, neither time was crowded because one it was like -14 windchill outside and the other was during the Super Bowl and it was just me and ten (other? I"m not sure yet) hipsters. I was pleased that I could have two drinks each time, which must mean they are not too strong since I am the size of the average 15-year-old. I also shared some of my friend's drinks. I had the Kent, which is a barrel-aged pre-made cocktail that is very light and refreshing. My male friend enjoyed the extremely bitter Victorian and I did not. I was more into Against The Bliss, which I was worried would be too sweet based on the description, but it was very balanced. I also adored the tart creamy In Word & In Deed. The chef made pimento cheese when I was there during the Super Bowl, which sated a craving for these garish cheese product that I've been afflicted with lately. It was a really nice one with ample amounts of crispy pickles, probably the best I've had in the city. I also had the liver jar, which was not that memorable. There was not enough bread though and we had to buy extra bread which was $2. I loved the retro diningwear they served everything in. I can't speak to the pretentiousness of this place because I have been told I am pretentious and therefore might be unqualified to determine whether things are pretentious, but I enjoyed myself and the bill was certainly less than in many other similar places. The bartenders were friendly and my friend got one dealer's choice calvados cocktail that was spicy and fragrant.
  • Post #8 - February 12th, 2013, 1:46 pm
    Post #8 - February 12th, 2013, 1:46 pm Post #8 - February 12th, 2013, 1:46 pm
    mgmcewen wrote:I can't speak to the pretentiousness of this place because I have been told I am pretentious and therefore might be unqualified to determine whether things are pretentious...


    Melissa - I love your posts and this may be the best line from all of them.
  • Post #9 - February 12th, 2013, 3:21 pm
    Post #9 - February 12th, 2013, 3:21 pm Post #9 - February 12th, 2013, 3:21 pm
    Darren72 wrote:
    mgmcewen wrote:I can't speak to the pretentiousness of this place because I have been told I am pretentious and therefore might be unqualified to determine whether things are pretentious...


    Melissa - I love your posts and this may be the best line from all of them.

    Ditto!!!!!!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #10 - February 25th, 2013, 1:58 am
    Post #10 - February 25th, 2013, 1:58 am Post #10 - February 25th, 2013, 1:58 am
    boudreaulicious wrote:
    Darren72 wrote:
    mgmcewen wrote:I can't speak to the pretentiousness of this place because I have been told I am pretentious and therefore might be unqualified to determine whether things are pretentious...


    Melissa - I love your posts and this may be the best line from all of them.

    Ditto!!!!!!


    x3! :D I had been told that Billy Sunday was "fussy", but that wasn't my experience. We stopped in for pre-dinner drinks at about 8:00 on a Sunday, and there was plenty of room at the bar and several open tables. Alex enthusiastically entertained all of our odd questions about the herbs and spices in the jars above the bar. When I jokingly asked whether he ever made a "suicide" out of the on-tap tonics, he regretfully admitted no, "but we are going to try it right now!" It packed a punch of flavors, unfolding like the three course meal in Willy Wonka gum. Totally worth it.

    Speaking of, the two tonics - the Aquinas and the Kent - were, hands down, our favorite drinks of the night. Refreshing and balanced, I could see myself getting hammered on these on a summer afternoon without ever knowing what hit me. The Ramon nut in the Aquinas in particular gave it unexpected depth and was, for me, a unique experience in a cocktail. I would go back to Billy Sunday for these drinks alone.

    The other cocktails we tried skewed sweet for my taste. I had the Victorian, which came with a warning about its bitterness. I like a good bitter cocktail, but this one was just too much bitter unsuccessfully offset by too much sweet, with not much else to make it interesting. In hindsight, I should have started with something safer. But now that I know about the tonics, I'll find it difficult to order anything else!
    The meal isn't over when I'm full; the meal is over when I hate myself. - Louis C.K.
  • Post #11 - June 13th, 2013, 5:35 pm
    Post #11 - June 13th, 2013, 5:35 pm Post #11 - June 13th, 2013, 5:35 pm
    I stopped by Billy Sunday last week after a meal at Elizabeth to check it out. It was pretty empty, but I guess that's ok for a Tuesday night. I tried only one cocktail, the Cocktail (malted rye, Spanish brandy, ambergris laced palm sugar, North Bay Bitters) which was very nice. I will admit I tried it because of the ambergris, though I would have like to try one with "un-laced" palm sugar just to see if I could tell the difference and try to get an idea of what ambergris actually tastes like. But given the price, I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't a noticeable difference.

    The one thing I really liked about Billy Sunday was the Fernet list. When I sat down I saw an entire cabinet full of Fernets and they then brought out the book with descriptions. The bartender even went to grab his tasting notes to go through which ones he liked better. I'm used to seeing only Fernet Branca, so I was pretty keen to try something different. I went with Fernet Cora from the 80s which was a bit softer on the front, but still had the same bitter kick on the back. Would have loved to have tried more, but ran out of time.
  • Post #12 - August 27th, 2013, 10:02 pm
    Post #12 - August 27th, 2013, 10:02 pm Post #12 - August 27th, 2013, 10:02 pm
    I'm a big fan of Billy Sunday. I never have trouble finding a seat at the bar and the bar tenders are always willing to talk to me to figure out what I'd like to drink. They use a lot of vintage glassware and plates which really adds to the vibe. I like that they have windows so you actually get some sunlight to go with the beautiful dark wood bar.

    While I've been a fan more or less since they've opened, my best experience was my most recent. We arrived at about 7 oclock on a Saturday night after putting our name in at Fat Rice (2.5 hour wait!). I was with a group of out of town friends and we were able to snag seats at the end of the bar where Alex Bachman was tending bar. As soon as he realized we were into spirits he talked with us at length about the things he's been working on.

    I started off with a Bijou cocktail on his recommendation since I'd rarely order a rum based drink (too sweet for my palate). This one was deceptively simple yet quite complex blending rhum agricole with sweet vermouth, centerbe (which is a high proof Italian herbal liquer) and angelica bitters. The combination was quite potent and distinctively herbal so as to balance out the sweetness.

    Before ordering a second drink, we ordered a dozen New Brunswick oysters for $20 (though on the smallish side, they were quite fresh and sweet) and some crispy pig ears. Both were excellent bar snacks to go with cocktails. Inspired by the first cocktail I asked Alex to make something very bitter using rum. He thought for a minute, then asked if I'd ever heard of the Baby Darling. It's an Italian cocktail from the sixties that uses the hard to find Amaro 18 Isabella. What a drink! Intensely bitter and herbal with just enough punch from the rum to keep it smooth.

    I can't think of a better aperitif to a nice dinner than chilling at the bar at Billy Sunday.
  • Post #13 - August 28th, 2013, 10:07 pm
    Post #13 - August 28th, 2013, 10:07 pm Post #13 - August 28th, 2013, 10:07 pm
    turkob wrote:I started off with a Bijou cocktail on his recommendation since I'd rarely order a rum based drink (too sweet for my palate).


    Wait, what? They have a house drink called a Bijou on their menu?? Considering this is the name of a classic (gin, sweet vermouth, green chartreuse), I don't really get why they'd recycle it...

    Billy Sunday has used a classic name for a house cocktail before - last time, it was an Old Fashioned (perhaps it's even still on the menu?? I haven't been back...). This really bugs me. Many times I will walk into a cocktail bar and order a classic by name, only glancing over the menu. I definitely do NOT expect a house concoction under these circumstances. I completely understand riffs on classics, but everywhere else I've ever been has had the good sense to tweak the name.

    Please stop this practice! I don't think it's helping anyone.
  • Post #14 - November 9th, 2013, 1:42 pm
    Post #14 - November 9th, 2013, 1:42 pm Post #14 - November 9th, 2013, 1:42 pm
    Had a couple of very good cocktails at Billy Sunday last night--The Cocktail (Malted Rye, Spanish Brandy, Ambergris Laced Palm Sugar, Water, North Bay Bitters) and, my favorite, Know Your Magi (Cognac, Almond & Myrrh Honey, Lemon, Egg White, Cappelletti, Cider Bitters). Both were well-balanced (particularly the "sweet" elements which is where a lot of the "cocktail" places lose me) with interesting components that you could actually discern amongst the flavors. I'm not a fan of the food here at all but it's a great place to start the evening.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #15 - June 28th, 2015, 10:09 pm
    Post #15 - June 28th, 2015, 10:09 pm Post #15 - June 28th, 2015, 10:09 pm
    Donna and I have been going to Billy Sunday since they opened and it's become one of our favorite places to grab a drink. Today we went to their first cocktail class and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    The class was cocktails 101, and was basically an introduction to making cocktails. That said, as someone who considers himself to be fairly experienced in making cocktails I found it to be very informative (and the attendees who were less experienced in making cocktails seemed very happy with the class as well). Steve and Lee taught the class, we were at Steve's end of the bar and he did a great job. The basic structure of the class was to quickly cover basic tools, ingredients, and techniques. After that the bartenders gave a demo of making a drink, and then everyone worked together to make it themselves, with each attendee doing one step of the process and then passing the drink onto the next person to do the next step. We ended up making four drinks - a Daiquiri, a Pisco Sour, an Old Fashioned, and a Martinez. What I thought worked really well was that actually making the cocktails allowed the bartenders to expand on the basic techniques and ingredients in a real world situation. I learned a lot about different types of Pisco, Vermouths, Zucca, as well as learning more about basic equipment and where to get it.

    Even though we made four drinks the class was run at a pretty leisurely pace, and there were plenty of opportunities to ask questions about anything at all. To me that is the sign of a great class, it isn't just about going through the planned activities, it's about the opportunity to talk to people who really know what they're doing and learn from them. The class definitely allowed for that, and then there was time after the class to hang out and ask more questions and order some drinks. They're running more classes later this summer, and if anyone has any interest in taking one I would highly recommend doing it.
    It is VERY important to be smart when you're doing something stupid

    - Chris

    http://stavewoodworking.com
  • Post #16 - April 8th, 2018, 10:19 am
    Post #16 - April 8th, 2018, 10:19 am Post #16 - April 8th, 2018, 10:19 am
    I haven't been in a few years, but we had some great cocktails and amaro's while seated at the end of the bar after a meal at Cellar Door Provisions.

    Glad to see them still doing well, crowded, but not overly so.
  • Post #17 - April 9th, 2018, 8:26 am
    Post #17 - April 9th, 2018, 8:26 am Post #17 - April 9th, 2018, 8:26 am
    They are one of the last businesses open in that strip at the moment, with Dunlay's closing and the earlier closing of Mezcaleria Flores+Johnny's. Glad to see they are still going strong, and hopefully they can hold onto their lease...

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