Welcome to Big Star
Big Star is a bourbon and beer-focused, taco-slinging, late-night honky-tonk in the heart of Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Executive Chef Paul Kahan and Chef de Cuisine Tom Van Lente’s menu, inspired by authentic Mexican street food, is complemented by an extensive house-selected single barrel bourbon program. Housed in a defunct 1940's gas station, the taqueria’s soundtrack of classic country and rock & roll is selected and spun by our bar staff.
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 and devastating dust storms of the southern plains created a mass exodus of Americans travelling West in search of a better life and economic opportunity.
These migrants were responsible for developing the “Bakersfield Sound.” Bakersfield’s two greatest musicians, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, helped define this “sound” – the unique twang of the fender telecaster guitar, vocal harmonies and 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 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 and 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 unique moments in history where place, time, people, talent and opportunity all came together. It is in this spirit that we created 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 City and the Museum of Contemporary Art in North 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.