Location, Location

Big Jones will be opening at 5347 N. Clark in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. Residents of the neighborhood will recognize it as the old location of Augie’s. (more on that later)

Finding a location for the restaurant was the first and biggest decision of our restaurant adventure. This is our first place, so there was a lot to learn! We started looking at locations full time in March 2007, and we looked at dozens of places. We were mostly looking at places that were, or had been, restaurant spaces. Zoning and plumbing were just two of the reasons for that. We looked at some great places, and some places with some serious problems! We spent significant amounts of time on two places:
1. A corner location in Uptown’s entertainment district. On the plus side, this corner was very visible and very close to the Green Mill and the theaters in Uptown. In the end, though, we didn’t feel comfortable with the terms of the lease, or the fact that there was basically no place for garbage in back.
2. A great location in Lincoln Square, right across the street from the Old Town School of Folk Music. As far as Lincoln Square locations go, this place was just about perfect. We were already imagining the events we’d be able to do with the School. The landlord was in the middle of renovations when we were talking about the lease; after a few weeks though, it was clear that the renovations were going to take much longer than planned.
3. The great corner location in Lakeview. We were very interested in a prominent corner location in Lakeview, not far from the popular Ping Pong. Unfortunately that place was too close to a church to have a liquor license, and the kitchen was very small.

We worked with agents, and spent a lot of time on the Internet, particularly Craigslist. Living on the north side of Chicago, we were mostly interested in the north-side neighborhoods: Lakeview, Uptown, Andersonville, and Lincoln Square; but we also looked in Wicker Park, the South Loop, and elsewhere.

In August 2007, Augie decided to retire and close his Augie’s restaurant in Andersonville. Augie’s had been open since 1954! When Paul heard this location was available we were immediately interested. First, Andersonville has a very popular restaurant and shopping district. Second, we had lived in the neighborhood for ten years, so we were very familiar with the neighborhood. Paul made an appointment to talk to the new property owners quickly, and we went in to see the space and talk terms. Great location and great size, we really liked it!

Andersonville has a wide variety of dining options, so there were limits to what we could do. There is already a nice French bistro, for example, so that was out. But our idea for a Southern place seemed perfect, since there was no such place anywhere in the area. We mentioned this idea to the new landlord, and he thought it was a good idea. In the end, this idea was probably what made the property owner interested in us.

Now that we’re just a couple months from opening, it’s exciting to think that we’ll be back in the Andersonville area, our old neighborhood for ten years. We can’t wait to see all our Andersonville and Edgewater neighbors again!

Here are some pictures we took as we started looking at the location — these are probably some of the last pictures you’ll ever see of the old Augie’s!

– Mark

Old Augie’s counter
Looking towards the front windows
Kitchen and the back