Back in the day, the old Melvin B's was as much a warm weather see-and-be-seen spot as Castaways. Sadly for many North Siders, the Gold Coast
bar closed in 2007. If you're one of many who has spent the interim searching hopelessly for something to fill the void, your search ends right where it began: The people behind Manor
and The Fifty/50
have taken over the space with the aptly named Cedar Hotel.
As if the decades-long legacy of Melvin B's weren't history enough, Cedar Hotel also happens to occupy the famed Cedar Hotel, an 80-something–year-old national landmark. While the rest of the hotel remains vacant, the ground level has been rehabbed as a sleek bar/restaurant complete with modern amenities like flat-screen TVs and a state-of-the-art sound system. Relics such as the old Melvin's multi-colored tiled floor, and the hotel's ornate Spanish baroque facade serve as a reminder of the venue's storied past.
During Chicago's much cherished warm months, Cedar Hotel's expansive patio acts like flypaper for tourists, bon vivants and shoppers. Served in 24-ounce souvenir cups, cocktails such as the Suite Tea (Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea vodka and fresh squeezed lemonade) make perfect summer sippers. Ideal for a light lunch, the ahi, salmon and avocado appetizer – inspired by co-owner Scott Weiner's background in Asian and Caribbean cuisine and tenure at Joe's Stone Crab – comes dressed in orange miso and accompanied by wonton chips, crispy plantains and wasabi paste.
During Chicago's much more common cold months, the interior's cedar-planked walls and leather barstools create a cozy atmosphere. In keeping with the upscale bar food menu Weiner created for The Fifty/50, three delectable slider options (pulled pork, chicken and lobster salad) provide bite-size bliss in New England brioche buns, while mouth-watering ribs and cheddar bechamel nachos delight heartier appetites.
With its prime location and crowd-pleasing menu, Cedar Hotel is bound to earn some loyal patrons. Cheers to a couple more decades in the Gold Coast.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Amanda Nyren