Whiskey Business, a new concept from the owner of Cheesie’s Pub & Grub, is an exciting addition to Wicker Park, having just opened in January. The idea behind the menu, owner Chris Johnston explains, is to take classic food that he loved as a picky child and give them an exciting twist. The result is burgers, chicken wings and french fries that are transformed into insanely flavorful and satisfying works of art.
Upon arrival, it is evident that this place was built to bring back the eighties. Aside from the name (a pun on the classic film Risky Business), the first floor is covered in paraphernalia from the decade, including neon lights and condiments displayed in old-school tin lunch boxes. The rich wood tables and bar balance the bright decor and upbeat, era-appropriate pop music, bringing class and comfort to a space that could never be misinterpreted as tacky.
Before diving into the drool-worthy lunch menu, I decided to try one of the punny cocktails offered—the Drew Berries N’ More. It was extremely fresh, light and fruity without masking the bracing flavor of the whiskey. It made an enjoyable start to what I knew would be an even better meal.
The first of three main courses ordered—all of which were served quickly by the extremely friendly staff—was the Whiskey Business burger. Stuffed with their signature six-cheese mac and cheese and topped with a roasted tomato slice and bourbon onion-bacon jam, the first bite alone was enough to elicit an “oh my gosh, this is so good.”
What the burger lacked in depth of texture it made up for in massive amounts of flavor. The tomato slice and jam were intensely tangy and well-seasoned, and added a lot of moisture to the beef. The mac and cheese center incorporated a delicious creaminess that makes this burger a standout among regular gourmet burger fare.
Next up were the Jamaican jerk chicken wings with coconut cream sauce. Be forewarned that this dish is definitely for sharing. Sure, there are only six wings, but each one is about the size of a small chicken breast. The large wings were juicy, and the dipping sauce subtly sweet—a perfect complement to the jerk seasoning of the chicken.
The real star of the show, however, was the massive fry entree. The fry bar is a Whiskey Business specialty, with nine creations ranging from Jambalaya to “Howard the Duck” duck confit fries. I got the Elote fries, covered with salsa valentina, two kinds of cheese and fresh yellow corn. All of the ingredients, including the waffle fries, were incredibly fresh and not at all greasy, uniting spicy sauce with bursts of sweetness from the corn. Despite the large size of the dish, it was hard not to want to demolish every bite in a single sitting.
There are many restaurants where dessert just isn’t worth it. Whiskey Business is not one of those restaurants. After considering the pumpkin fireball crème brulee, I decided to try the bourbon chocolate bread pudding, topped with dulce de leche coffee ice cream. Its melt-in-your-mouth texture, carefully balanced sweetness and rich chocolate flavor with just a hint of bourbon makes it probably the best bread pudding I have ever had.
In March, the restaurant will open their rooftop seating and will serve meals while screening everything from basketball games to classic 80s films.
So, next time you find yourself in Wicker Park, stop by Whiskey Business for some unforgettable food celebrating an unforgettable era.