Nothing suits Chicago's big shoulders like the lifestyle of the Forties, now revived in a swell of swanky supper clubs.
The neo-retro clubs not only borrow style elements 50 years gone, but have a sense of indulgence and vitality in common with the post-World War II decade when prosperity begat leisure and leisure led to the cocktail hour.
Club Lucky at 1824 W. Wabansia St. is the oldest and truest of the new supper clubs. Inhabiting a 1938 Polish bar and VFW hall, the club remains faithful to the original architecture, with the addition of oversize tables and booths to accommodate large portions of hearty Italian fare. The red and black accented cocktail lounge is lined with vintage cocktail shakers used to create the signature Club Lucky martini.
"The club of the Nineties has to incorporate more than alcohol," says Joe Prino, co-owner of The Daily Bar & Grill, 4560 N. Lincoln Ave.
Thus, food and ambience are integral. The year-old Daily serves up a subdued version of the Forties via its booth-lined room, intimate table lamps and walls stenciled with period clip art. Acid jazz on the sound system updates the digs which Prino calls "a dinner diner," offering merlot with the meatloaf.
The youngest of the retro-clubs is The Pepper Lounge, 3441 N. Sheffield Ave. "I wanted to build the epitome of a Rat Pack place," explains owner Dion Antic, "but with a Nineties twist."
Part of the twist is its heightened atmosphere, including tufted vinyl upholstery above the curved bar, two centerpiece 1945 light fixtures from the Chicago Theater and period videos like "Breakfast at Tiffany's" playing on the television.
In the past, "big was better," says Antic. "Now smaller clubs and restaurants are the meeting places."
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