Reopening Glunz Tavern felt like a matter of destiny for Barbara Glunz and her son, Christopher Donovan. The 48-seat Old Town tavern was launched in 1888 by Glunz’s grandfather, Louis Glunz I. Prohibition forced its doors shut, and they’ve remained so since, but the family held onto the space; Glunz grew up above it and now runs the adjoining wine and spirits shop, House of Glunz. She has immersed herself in her grandfather’s passions: wine, food and hospitality. “I can see that my whole life has been leading up to this,” she says of the opening.
The new incarnation of Glunz Tavern reflects that devotion. It’s a comfortable neighborhood spot that manages to feel nostalgic and homey without seeming stale. Relics of the original space abound — Glunz and Donovan preserved the original oak floors and tin ceiling, and they adorned the walls with old family photos and antique signs. But the Tavern’s menu, crafted with help from Butcher & the Burger’s Allen Sternweiler, is a more contemporary take on German, French, American and Austrian classics.
Highlights include the wiener schnitzel and pan-fried späetzle ($24) and the bleu cheese burger ($12). Glunz supervised the composition of each dish — she tasted whitefish from three suppliers before choosing one. “If you get really great food, you don’t have to do very much with it,” she says.
They crafted the drink menu just as deliberately. “You’re just as much pairing the drinks with the food as the food with the drinks,” says Donovan.
As Glunz culled the wine selection from small distributors around the globe, Donovan handpicked an eclectic assortment of spirits, ranging from the House of Glunz’s exclusive Bin #821 blended malt Scotch whisky to Van Winkle Special Reserve. When developing the cocktails — most of which are pre-Prohibition classics — he looked to his great-grandfather’s original recipes, including one for a Manhattan that he found scrawled on a cocktail napkin.
Donovan and Glunz say preserving the Glunz legacy is what drives them. “We’ve put so much of ourselves into it because it’s about our family’s history,” says Donovan. “The brand is us. So it’s gratifying to see people respond to that.” 1202 N. Wells, (312) 642-3000, Glunztavern.com
Story by Rachel Handler