The team behind Moonflower, a Northwest Side hit that brought a fancy cocktail option to Portage Park and Jefferson Park, is opening a bar in West Town.
Owners Zach Rivera and Christina Chae named Golden Years for David Bowie’s 1975 hit single. It’s a partnership with High Dive owners Georg Simos and Alex Tsolakides. High Dive — a beloved neighborhood bar that melded aspects of a dive with a solid pub food menu — closed two years ago during the pandemic as New York-style pizzeria Dante’s took over the space.
Simos and Tsolakides have since moved Dante’s next door to make way for Golden Years at 1938 W. Chicago Avenue. Rivera and Chae imagine the new drinking den as a neighborhood cocktail bar that channels the soulful spirit of rock and blues culture from the 1970s. The bar should officially debut next week.
“In general, I approach concepts for bars through music,” says Rivera, a Chicago native. “I grew up in a very musical family and that was always a big part of my life so when I walked into the old High Dive space it just stuck out as this sort of ‘70s vibe — a lot of brick, a lot of wood… I pretty much immediately thought about what kind of music and vibe [would fit] and stuck with that feel-good rock and blues.”
The ebullient tunes of artists like Joe Cocker, Buddy Miles, and (of course) Bowie sparked a flood of inspiration for Rivera and Chae, who aim to extend that upbeat energy into every facet of the 2,000-square-foot space, outfitted in brown leather seating, wooden furniture, and low lighting from fixtures designed to evoke the era. Rivera estimates that it will seat 60 and leave plenty of room for standing.
But the real juice, so to speak, is on the bar menu. Rivera took a deep dive into 1970s cocktail culture, digging into the era’s most popular concoctions and ingredients to emerge with a lineup of drinks that play off those staples in a more modern, balanced manner. Orange juice, arguably the ‘70s mixer of choice, makes its way into options like the Cactus Club, a tequila-mezcal drink made with a light, herbal verdita of orange juice, cilantro, mint, and jalapeño.
There’s the Zombie Killer (rums, apricot, guava, coconut cream) — a mashup of tiki classics the Zombie and the Pain Killer — and the 23° Highball (lemon oil, Suntory Whisky Toki, Suntory Whisky Hibiki) a deceptively simple cocktail that Rivera learned to make during a March visit to Japan that uses a specially rigged freezer so there’s no need for carbonation-bursting ice. He’s also integrated his Puerto Rican and Jewish roots into the Boricua Stinger, a riff on the classic Stinger cocktail with a base of rum, brandy, and Fernet Branca topped with a foam layer that Rivera describes as a “minty Malta egg cream.”
“It’s tough to wrap your head around, but all those flavors work really well,” Rivera says. “I think it’s going to be a sleeper — once people give it a try, it’s going to be one of the most enjoyed cocktails.”
While drinks are the priority, the bar will also feature a limited food menu with throwback items like a wedge salad with blue cheese, a classic club sandwich, and bacon-wrapped dates. Rivera hopes the small selection will help round out the 1970s feel.
Golden Years is emerging amid a trending moment for ‘70s-inspired bars, which have cropped up all year long from Cleveland to Los Angeles. In July, Chicagoans saw the debut of Good Night John Boy, a campy spot on Randolph Row with disco brunch and tons of decor featuring a mustachioed Burt Reynolds. Rivera and Chae are seeking a more boozy, bluesy style, which they’ll unveil in early November in West Town.
Golden Years, 1938 W. Chicago Avenue, Scheduled to open Wednesday, November 8.