WICKER PARK — The team behind the popular Saved by the Max pop-up diner will unveil their permanent neighborhood addition Dorian’s this Friday night in Wicker Park’s Flat Iron building.
Packing a quadruple punch as a swanky restaurant and bar inspired by late ’60s-era jazz clubs — plus a music/DJ stage and a record shop — patrons enter Dorian’s at 1939 W. North Ave. through a room with stacks of vinyl for sale.
The record shop offers a fully functional listening booth with headphones that patrons can use as they wait in line to get into the hidden bar and restaurant located behind the record shop. The journey has its own hashtag on Instagram, #throughtherecordshop, which folks are using to post photos.
Dorian’s selection of about 600 records across a variety of genres are curated by music programming director Joe Bryl, a former co-owner of West Town dance club Sonotheque.
Bryl said he put some records from his collection up for sale, plus other finds with help from Shake, Rattle and Roll’s Ric Addy and DJ David Tropicalazo. There are also albums available from Chicago-based label International Anthem.
The airy tiny plant-filled record shop overlooking the bustle of North Avenue, though, is really just a “front,” with the exception being that all of the records are for sale.
Inside, Dorian’s is dimly lit, with swanky long green naugahyde seats along a wood-paneled wall. It looks like a bonafide jazz club and nothing like its pop-up predecessors, the bright and kitschy Saved By the Max and more subdued Riot Feast, which closed last summer and fall, respectively.
Zack Eastman, one of the partners behind Dorian’s, said Dorian’s aims to stick around, rather than be a time-restricted pop-up like Saved by the Max, which has moved on to Los Angeles.
“Collectively we’ve witnessed the power of pop-ups but felt that with the right concept we could build something that becomes a permanent fixture in the space and community. Dorian’s became a chance for us to express ourselves personally and professionally, combining the things we’re most passionate about with a team that’s constantly learning from one another,” Eastman said on behalf of himself and partners Derek Berry and Steve Harris.
According to a news release, music will include a mix of genres (jazz, funk, boogie, soul and more) experienced through live performance and vinyl DJ sets. There will be more DJ sets in the early days of Dorian’s as the group taps locals and touring artists to grace the stage on a more frequent basis as the space evolves.
The cocktails are devised by beverage director John Hess, formerly with The Aviary.
Menu graphics designed by Natalie Denny show patrons exactly what they’ll be imbibing in and there is a lot to consider, from a cherry brandy-based Frooty Loops cocktail made with cereal milk to three large concoctions intended for sharing. The large-format cocktails include the $70 “Cookie Monster” drink served up in what looks like an actual cookie jar filled with bourbon, coconut amaretto and bitters.
The menu from executive chef Brian Fisher, who created the dishes for Dorian’s two pop-up predecessors and is currently working at Entente in Lakeview, offers sharable plates, charcuterie and caviar service. Fisher told Eater he designed the menu recipes to be “foolproof” as he will not be on the premises often.
Dorian’s is named after an inspiring late employee of Saved by the Max, Dorian “Big E” Cole, who worked at the diner and died last year. The space is meant to honor Cole’s memory and the group’s time spent together.
After its opening at 7 p.m. Friday, Dorian’s will be open five days a week, offering both happy hour specials, dinner and late night food service. Hours are from 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Wednesday-Friday and Sunday, and 7 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday.
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