Welcome to Big Star
BIG STAR is a whiskey, tequila, cocktail, and beer-focused venue located in the heart of Wicker Park, Chicago. Executive Chef Paul Kahan and Chef de Cuisine Justin Large have crafted an eclectic menu inspired by Mexican street food in a space reminiscent of a California honky tonk. The food, liquor and cocktail programs change continuously to complement the seasons, and always features six beers on tap, and an ever-growing selection of our house-selected single barrel bourbons and whiskeys, picked by staff members at distilleries in Kentucky.
Between 1935 and roughly 1942, tens of thousands of working-class people from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas and Missouri descended on the west coast – particularly Los Angeles and the California Central Valley. The Depression-era migration was also connected to the devastating 1935-1938 dust storms of the southern plains but the majority of the exodus was economically based.
Whatever the motives for going out West, these migrants were responsible for developing the “Bakersfield Sound.” Bakersfield’s two greatest musicians, Merle Haggard & Buck Owens, helped define this “sound” – the unique twang of the fender telecaster guitar, vocal harmonies & a rough edge not heard on the more polished Nashville recordings of the same era.
The honky-tonks of Bakersfield and Kern County included places like the Ethyl’s Corral, the Pioneer Club, the Rhythm Rancho and the Texhoma Club which made their rural Southern association in name and with “rude décor.” These clubs were often rough and embraced drink, violence and rebellion. This was a society of extremes: sobriety & drunkenness, piety & hell raising, wild Saturday nights followed by Sunday religious revivals.
Bakersfield, in the late 30′s and early 40′s, was one of those rare unions of people, place & time, talent and opportunity and purpose that symbolized a city transformed by music. In this spirit, we have created Big Star.
The Big Star
The Big Star logo was taken from the 2003 painting Red Star by local Chicago poet, actor & artist Tony Fitzpatrick, which he describes as “blinking over the city of Chicago at night, illuminating old-time bars, cigars and gamblers’ trinkets.” Mr. Fitzpatrick’s works are in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami.
Red Star is a tribute to Mr. Fitzpatrick’s friend Nelson Algren, who lived near Wicker Park and painted his mailbox the same three colors; the black represented night, the red symbolized blood and yellow was for the sun. Mr. Fitzpatrick said he also created Red Star for the diverse working class people of the neighborhood and it stands for the labor movement of the Polish, Mexican, Irish, Slovian, Puerto Rican and Italian immigrants of Wicker Park.