Three Wicker Park bars go through growth spurts

  • Emprium Arcade Bar has plans for a summer expansion.
Emprium Arcade Bar has plans for a summer expansion. (Lenny Gilmore/RedEye )
April 04, 2013|By Kate Bernot, @redeyeeatdrink | RedEye

If you've ever waited for your turn to play Duck Hunt at Emporium Arcade Bar or stood on line at Big Star craving a fish taco, you know that some popular Wicker Park bars could use a little extra space.

Luckily, some of them are poised to expand.

The Smoke Daddy, a veteran Division Street barbecue joint known for its slow cooking and house-made sauces, has constructed an addition to their storefront that adds about 65 new seats. The expansion, which will be unveiled at a grand opening party April 18, also adds 15 bar seats at a new wrap-around bar, plus 10 large-screen TVs and additional bathrooms.

Half a mile away, Emporium Arcade Bar has announced plans to take over a newly vacant next-door office building on Milwaukee Avenue to add 2000 square feet of space this summer. Owner Danny Marks said he's long had his eye on that space, and hopes that the expansion will add much-needed seating, a second bar and, of course, more games.

"We had to go get a storage space yesterday because we’d been using a lot of the vacant building as storage [for gaming machines]," Marks said. "Since we’ve been open, we've bought 20 new games. The game list is half different since we opened."

The area will also allow Emporium to accommodate more groups, host private events and broadcast movies and games on a large screen. Marks said he can imagine using the screen to project everything from a video of an NBA Jams tournament to live XBox contests.

But what is perhaps the most-packed Wicker Park bar patio of allBig Star—also is finally receiving some extra room.

By taking over the storefront directly to the north of the restaurant, Big Star will add more kitchen space and move its current to-go window to that area. Pending city approval, this could add an extra 60 square feet to the popular patio and allow Big Star to cater more music festivals and events.

While neither Emporium nor Big Star's expansions have opening dates set, this summer should see some changes to both storefronts.

kbernot@tribune.com  @redeyeeatdrink


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