The Anthem in Wicker Park

The Anthem in Wicker Park (Barry Brecheisen for RedEye)

Check out a full photo tour of The Anthem on Metromix.


Blame it on “The Wonder Years” coming to Netflix Instant: We’ve been feeling some serious ‘70s nostalgia lately. TV dinners in wood-paneled basements, fondue, Fleetwood Mac—even if you didn’t live through it, the era is back in a big way.

A new sports bar in Wicker Park is hoping to capitalize on the feel—Shake ‘N’ Bake chicken and cans of Schlitz included.

Set to open Wednesday, The Anthem sits just across the street from sibling bar Bangers & Lace, a craft beer and sausage bar that has quickly become a Division Street staple. But while the two share owners and a similar address, there will be no confusing the hangouts. For starters, the TVs at The Anthem (two projection screens and four flatscreens) will actually be on—with sound.

“It’s something that is kind of new to us,” explains partner Matt Eisler. “The TVs [at Bangers & Lace] have probably been on a handful of times since we opened and sound…we couldn’t even imagine.”

What Eisler and partners Jason Freiman, Kevin Heisner and Nick Podesta could imagine, though, is a spot where they’d actually want to stick around after a game.
The result is combination of your favorite neighborhood sports bar and the best basement hangout on the block, circa 1981: Cold beer, classic games on TV and food a menu straight out of the dreams of a 17-year-old boy.

“We’re keeping it really simple, back to the basics—we’re just trying to do it really well,” says Eisler.

Here are 4 things to know if you stop by The Anthem next week:

1. There’s a theme. Late ‘70s/early ‘80s childhood nostalgia is the thread that runs through everything from the menu to the flooring to the music at The Anthem—but we’re spared any kitsch. The wood floor emblazoned with the retro bar logo and the giant American flag hanging on the ceiling feel like the high school gym in Anywhere, U.S.A. Keep an eye out for a coming-soon coin-operated bubble hockey machine—1980’s Miracle on Ice special edition, Russia vs. USA. Sweet.

2. Remember the food your mom would only allow on Friday nights? It’s probably on the menu, a mix of sports bar and comfort food classics with a throwback twist. Start with an order of the cheese doodles (cheese dusted pork rinds) then move on to Shake n’ Bake-style chicken, hamburger mac n’ cheese, or the Jucy Lucy, a Velveeta-stuffed wonder topped with caramelized onion. If you have room, end with a vanilla fried Twinkie topped with Oreo cream—”I was actually concerned that [the Twinkie] might be crossing the line,” launghs Eisler. We couldn’t disagree more.

3. You won’t get the drink menu confused with Bangers & Lace. While the sibling hotspot is focused on craft brews, The Anthem’s beer menu is much more…acessible. Think the ballpark’s best, priced from $4 to $6—Budweiser is the go-to, supported by a selection of tallboy cans and just enough craft choices to satisfy snobs. Although Eisler admits they’re not the focus, a short cocktail list includes retro riffs on classic bar drinks. That tiki drink on the menu? The name “Episode 73” comes from the Brady Bunch Hawaiian vacation episode. Yeah, you know the one.

4. It’s definitely a sports bar. “We’re going to embrace the spirit of watching a game,” promises Eisler. That means clear views of screens from every seat in the house thanks to an open layout. Though there are no specific college alliances, the bar plans to release a weekly schedule of other major games that will be shown. During down time you can expect to be surrounded by sports classics.


At a glance...
The Anthem
1725 W. Division St., 773-697-4804
Hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday
Price range:$8-$12 entrees, $4-$6 beer
TVs: Two projection screens, four flatscreens
How to get there: Blue Line to Division
What to wear: Denim shirts, vintage little league t-shirts, Chuck Taylors
Don’t miss: Vanilla fried Twinikies with Oreo cream, Velveeta-stuffed Jucy Lucy buger