While Milwaukee Avenue has pretty much become the hub for new bars and restaurants, fresh places have started to open in the western part of Logan Square this past year. To follow the pattern, X (3433 W. Fullerton Ave.), an artistic, neighborhood bar with a Caribbean-influence, is set to open this spring.
Out to Lunch Hospitality partners Chef Charles Welch, Creative Director Andrew Miller, Director of Operations Hector Gonzales and Lead Bartender Alexandra Wright (Nico Osteria, Lula Cafe, Honey’s) are opening up the bar with Caribbean-themed drinks. It will be a 1700-square foot space with an 85-person capacity with closed-loop gardening for growing drink garnishes and composting waste.
The space will have modern interior elements reminiscent of “San Juan meets the ’80s neon craze” with live music and DJs, according to their press release.
While there are a plethora of cocktails bars in Logan Square, X Bar will be different from these bars in terms of the “energy that they bring” to the neighborhood. They will be doing a tremendous amount of rotating, creative programming with dance performances, punk, poetry, spoken word, etc. Their events can’t be categorized into one genre. There will be a heavy focus on global sounds with musicians from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, in addition to local artists, Wright said.
“There’s a lot to say about a community-based ethos—there’s a lot of value in keeping it tight and organized while still being a little bit rough around the edges,” she said. “There’s a huge artist community on the west side of Chicago that will be excited about a new home base.”
Not only is X unique with their artistic engagement but they trying to be known for their efforts in sustainability. They are committed to finding multiple ways to use the same product in order to lower waste. Lula Cafe served as a major inspiration with their in-house growing of herbs (grown on the rooftop in the summer).
“It’s a lot more thoughtful; you have to be methodic about where you are sourcing the products and using them,” Wright said. “I gained a lot of inspiration with sustainability and [am] spearheading a program that could emulate and look up to Lula,” Wright said.
X bar will be serving cocktails that are Caribbean-focused—not to be confused with Tiki-focused. Wright said she has been inspired by Matty Eggleston, who opened up Spilt Milk, and Paul McGee, owner of Lost Lake.
“Paul McGee has Lost Lake on lockdown and I have really looked up to him. I’m focusing on a lot of their historic routes of rum, agricole, and agave coming from the Caribbean. We’re starting there in a lot of cases, coming back to the most classic builds with a new culinary twist. We want you to feel transported when you go inside [X]. Cocktails can stand alone. Tiki emulates that and you feel like you are on a vacation when you’re drinking them.”
Her business partner, Chef Charles Welch, brings a Mediterranean and Spanish flavor to the program. Wright would like to have test kitchen days and collaborate with her partners such as Welch who will be a “sounding board” for her, she said.
“When I was at Lula, they charred apple skins to an ash and they made it into a fine powder and put it on the rim of the plate. You’d think the apple would have lost flavor once it’s on the plate, but the flavors were still in place. The technique is light years ahead in its own way,” she said. Wright wants to incorporate this type of innovative energy into the drink recipes at X bar.
Wright is connected to the Logan Square neighborhood for many reasons. She and her partners were inspired by the building of the former Acapulco Night Club. The building structure was a “Spanish-Colonial infrastructure with inlaid tile.” They were motivated by the four walls that were already in the former space.
“I think we all had just previously spent quite a bit of our years in the West Loop but as individuals we all spend our lives in Logan Square and Humboldt Park; it was about getting back to who we are as individuals,” she said. “We are trying to deliver something that Logan Square is just growing into, which is a higher quality of service and more hospitality-driven, not as shot and beer heavy, yet, still very casual. We’re all Logan Square people to a core and it just made sense.”
Other notable neighbors, The Burlington, (3425 W. Fullerton Ave.) has been in Logan Square for 11 years. Sean Loftus, bartender and assistant manager, has worked there for six years and has seen the neighborhood change. He describes the Burlington as a “young kids’ old man bar.”
“[The Burlington] started out as the hip, new bar and now [we’re] slowly growing into a dive… But as one of the older kids on the block as far as newer Logan bars, we’re starting to hit our stride,” Loftus said. “We are just a good, simple, neighborhood dive with rock shows in the back; that’s the skin we are wearing.” As proof of their staple neighborhood presence, they have “Burly night”—every 3rd Wednesday of the month—a LGBTQ+ friendly dance party. It was one of the first LGBTQ+-centric events held on a monthly basis in Logan Square.
Loftus has seen the neighborhood change, but it has been slow to change in the West part of Fullerton Avenue. It wasn’t until this past year where he started seeing changes, he added. The Burlington was its own “lonely island” until Park & Field, Halfwit, and Wyler Road opened. When asked about the opening of X-bar, Loftus was very supportive of their development.
“I think it’s great, honestly. It’s sort of how people can make an evening out on the town in our nook of the neighborhood. You get a bite at Park & Field, go over and get cool, really well-crafted cocktails at X bar down the street, get a a couple High Lifes and a shot to end the night with us,” he said.
However, given the reality of gentrification in Logan Square, it is important to respect the community that has been there prior to gentrification.
“It’s one of those things when any business opens up within the neighborhood, you have to be aware of the changing socioeconomic dynamics; you have to be humble in the face of the community that has existed there long before you got there,” he acknowledged. “But also as a business, you are trying to develop a customer base and we’ve been standing in the same spot for the last 11 years and this kind of development has just started to happen.”
Both X and Burlington aim to be respectful and inclusive of the neighborhood’s changing dynamics while still recognizing they are businesses appealing to many types of customers.
“There are still Puerto Ricans and people of Latin descent in Logan Square. I am hoping that it can still be comfortable for everyone. What we’re trying to do is pay homage to the Caribbean, which we love,” Wright said.