When a historic building is the setting of a new restaurant, it goes without saying that it's best for the current tenant to pay its respects to the past. Chicago's Willow Room, which is set inside a landmark in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, is part of that unspoken rule. The site was once the home of Schulien's Tavern, one of the few taverns that remained open in defiance of prohibition, and so Nicole Alexander of Siren Betty Design rightfully aspired to "play off the integrity of the building," she said. The space opens into a main dining room with large windows and a stained red oak floor, where brass fixtures contrast honey brick walls dotted with found and original art. And down a narrow flight of stairs, an underground lounge lined with plush velvet booths surrounds a low bar and a stocked wine cellar. It's just the type of scene that would fit in perfectly with yesteryear, although chef Marissa Janz's modern take on classic American eats still ensures that today's guests leave satisfied.
Reyna Abraham is a Freelance Writer, Editor and Educator who studied English Literature and Language at California Polytechnic University California. Her work has been published online at Downtown Magazine New York, eHow, and Hunker. She works as a writing consultant for the Architecture firm Gregg Maedo & Associates and has an appreciation for the ways that human ingenuity, design, and thoughtful engineering intersect.