It would be natural to look for traces of Helen’s Two-Way Lounge in Deadbolt, the cocktail bar that replaced the dive bar and neighborhood favorite, which sold cheap beer and shots for more than 50 years. You won’t find many, though. There’s still a pair of doors—the source of the Two-Way’s name—opening onto Milwaukee and Fullerton, but the rest has changed completely. Where the pool table once sat is lounge seating, and chandeliers have replaced the neon beer signs. The tin ceiling has been revealed and restored, and one wall is now exposed brick. In fact, Deadbolt resembles the nearby cocktail bar Spilt Milk (dark wood, exposed brick, mirrors, even the tin ceilings) much more than Helen’s old joint.
Like the owners of Spilt Milk, the folks behind Deadbolt are industry veterans. Two-Way owner Glenn Miller sold the place last year to Anshul Mangal and Shin Thompson, the owners of Furious Spoon, the ramen restaurant next door; Dustin Drankiewicz (Moneygun, Dusek’s) is a managing partner and developed the cocktail menu. Gone are the handwritten specials behind the bar—$1 drafts and $6 pitchers on certain nights, or any three bombs for $12 at any time—in favor of actual printed menus.
You can still get an Old Style on draft, though ($3, $12 for a pitcher), or a Jager shot with cranberry and apricot juice ($6) that’s actually pretty good. The rest of the brief draft list is dedicated to craft beer, but a few macrobrews (and several more microbrews) are available in cans. A window has been added to the wall that separates the bar from the Furious Spoon kitchen, allowing Deadbolt to offer a few items, carefully chosen for maximum alcohol absorption: fries, chicken nuggets, a hot dog, a burger, and a buffalo chicken sandwich. That’s it, but it’s all you need.
Deadbolt is primarily a cocktail bar, though. The dozen drinks on the menu (all $11) are, for the most part, jazzed-up classics. For the Chronic + Tonic you pick your own booze, which is mixed with hop-infused house-made tonic and lime juice; the Jabroni is a take on the Negroni that substitutes Galliano liqueur for the Campari. The Smoky Mai Tai isn’t particularly smoky, but it does manage to make coconut rum seem respectable (or at least very palatable) with grown-up additions like Glenlivet Reserve scotch, Angostura bitters, and absinthe. The Spiced Paloma, on the other hand, adds mezcal and ancho chile liqueur to the traditional tequila, lime, and grapefruit to startlingly smoky (and appealing) effect.
The one cocktail that wasn’t thoroughly enjoyable was a rum drink called the City Pigeon: the flavor is a little thin (though I appreciate that Deadbolt not only makes its own amaro for the drink but has chosen to refer to it as “hillbilly Campari”). The Pisco #2—a pisco sour with a very subtle strawberry infusion—has all the flavor the City Pigeon lacks. A raft of egg-white foam separates the baking spices sprinkled on top from the liquid underneath, resulting in a cocktail that smells like Christmas cookies but tastes citrusy and refreshing. It’s a strange disconnect that just makes the drink more intriguing.
Packed with cocktail bars, Logan Square hardly needs another one. But last year Spilt Milk took a gamble that people would want a place that serves a tightly curated selection of classic cocktails, (mostly) craft beer, and a few wines, and it seems to have paid off. There’s no reason that Deadbolt—with its friendly service, comfortable atmosphere, and well-made cocktails—can’t do the same. It may be a lot fancier than its predecessor, but it’s still a neighborhood bar at heart.
Deadbolt 2412 N. Milwaukee, 773-698-6101, deadboltbar.com