A Bagel on Broadway: Does Lakeview Need Another Restaurant?

Danny Wolf’s chutzpah is showing. Last month he opened the newest incarnation of the Bagel at 3107 N. Broadway, in the middle of a cluttered stretch of storefronts where businesses come and go with great regularity. But the location doesn’t scare him. “We run a quality restaurant that’s been around since 1950, and we’re professionals,” maintains Wolf, who with his sister Barbara and uncle Michael Golenzer operate the Bagel on Broadway and another in the Old Orchard Shopping Center. The newest Bagel opened two weeks after Wolf closed its former location at 3000 W. Devon, where he and his family had been in business since 1977. (They started at Kedzie and Lawrence in 1950). “The Devon area was changing,” notes Wolf, who also feared he would lose the all-important parking lot across the street.

Now Wolf is getting his bearings in Lakeview. Other restaurateurs who have been in the neighborhood a long time insist the last thing it needs is another new eatery. “I think there already are too many restaurants,” says Ann Sather majordomo Tom Tunney. But Tunney admits that the Bagel comes with a good reputation, and he adds that “good tenants are important for the street.” Wolf doesn’t deny he is confronting plenty of competition but maintains that “quality is the issue.”

Wolf was drawn to Broadway for several reasons, among them the neighborhood’s demographics. “We’re pulling in a younger crowd than we had on Devon,” he explains. He also expects to draw more deli fans from the Loop, Gold Coast, and Lincoln Park than he was able to on Devon.

Wolf says he has a good lease on the 4,000-square-foot Broadway space, but Tunney questions the wisdom of leasing in this neighborhood. “We like to own our properties,” says Tunney, who claims it is the only way to protect against potentially steep rent increases. The Bagel’s space appealed to Wolf because it came with a parking lot and fronted a street with plenty of foot traffic.

Competitors such as Ann Sather have succeeded by serving generous amounts of food at reasonable prices. At Wolf’s Bagel the average tab is about $9, close to what Tunney’s typical customer shells out for a meal. Wolf is also keeping the atmosphere at the Bagel casual and homey. “It’s not a production to go out to eat here,” he says. Though the menu includes typical deli fare such as lox, gefilte fish, and beef tongue, it has evolved over time to include a number of nonethnic and lighter dishes. “We didn’t use to serve ham or bacon,” notes Wolf, “and now we are serving a lot more salads.” One of the biggest surprises so far is a brisk take-out business that accounts for about 20 percent of total revenue.

A year or so from now Wolf and his family partners should know whether the Bagel has caught on, but the early figures indicate it will make it. On a recent Sunday the Bagel had 1,150 customers, an impressive number for a new 143-seat restaurant. Says Wolf, “We’re already running about 30 percent ahead of our projections.”

Cineplex Lockout: Whose Move?

Last week’s meeting between representatives from the projectionists’ union and Cineplex Odeon Theatres, the first with a federal mediator, did not result in a settlement or even much movement toward a resolution of the lockout that will soon enter its fourth week. “The meeting was more frustrating than anything else,” says Local 110 secretary-treasurer Al Brenkus of the talks that lasted five hours. He says Cineplex Odeon came to the table unwilling to budge on its demand for sharp cuts in the projectionists’ wages. “We were willing to move, but they weren’t,” notes Brenkus. Cineplex Odeon executive vice president Howard Lichtman insists the next move should be the union’s. “We have made several moves already and they haven’t,” he says, pointing out that the lockout will continue. “We could go on indefinitely but we would like to settle.” As of early this week no further meetings with the federal mediator were planned, but Brenkus hoped another would be scheduled in the near future.

CSO Buys Into Merchandising

Taking a cue from other cultural institutions, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra opened its first freestanding gift shop two weeks ago in the Santa Fe Building, next to Orchestra Hall. Prior to the shop’s opening CSO merchandise was available only at a kiosk in the Orchestra Hall lobby when concerts were performed or from the Women’s Association office hidden away high above the hall. “This will provide a much more visible presence for us on the street,” says Mildred Penn, the store’s retail manager. The shop will be staffed by paid cashiers and volunteers from the Women’s Association. Though it is too early to know whether the shop will generate income, Penn believes it will prove popular with tourists as well as local orchestra supporters. The merchandise ranges from candlesticks to music boxes to CD collections of CSO performances.

Jam Resurrects Jesus Christ Superstar

Look for Jam Productions to bring a 20th anniversary tour of the seminal Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar to the Chicago Theatre for a week’s run next March. The cast is expected to include Ted Neeley in the role of Jesus Christ and Irene Cara of Fame playing Mary Magdalene. Neeley also played Christ in the musical’s film version directed by Norman Jewison. A source indicated Jam would have liked to book a longer run, but tour scheduling conflicts prevented it.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Kathy Richland.