On a recent weeknight, I had to pick something up from a friend working as a bartender at Corner 41, which replaced the somewhat pricey and unremarkable Cy’s Steak & Chop House (not to be confused with Cy’s Crab House on Ashland). Since I was there, I thought, I might as well review the place—lucky them!
Corner 41 is located on the northwest corner of Warner & Lincoln and it wasn’t the first time that I had been there: I have a habit of randomly showing up and surprising my friend when I know she’s working, as it seems like the only time we can get together since she and her Latin beau have gotten back together.
Corner 41 opened in January of 2010 and there are several great points about the place, but the two that I like best are as follows. To start with, the proprietors—The Bovalis—a longtime kind and generous married couple, are always visible and welcoming to all guests. Such a constant presence of the owners in an establishment usually demonstrates a great deal of love for the place and that is certainly the case with Corner 41. Having waited tables myself, I have gone many months without meeting the proprietor(s) of several small businesses that I have worked for.
My second favorite aspect of this classy restaurant & bar is the interior design that has changed little, if at all, from its days as Cy’s and quite possibly the only notable attribute of the former space. Corner 41’s bar area and dining room are reminiscent of the “Gay Nineties” (the happy 1890s, that is) with its exposed brick walls, century old working cash register, and wooden arches framing the mirrors behind the bar. The bar itself is made of a thick high-quality wood that matches the floor, and the hanging candle-like brass fixtures that protrude from the exposed brick walls add an extra touch of elegance. The use of many well-placed mirrors and various plants add an additional air of mystery and romance to this corner venue on Lincoln. The use of warm colors, including brass exposed ductwork and framing around the open kitchen, gold, white, and beige set the tone for a nice yet sophisticated corner bar. To modernize it a bit, three television sets were added in the bar to cater to patrons’ tube-watching needs.
Mr. and Mrs. Bovali, I must say that your food selection was a surprise to me for being a corner bar. Although I have not yet tried the lobster burger, I am enthused that such items exist on the menu. Another delightful sounding menu item was the flower squash quesadilla. I tried a steak sandwich with mashed potatoes and, although I love meat, I actually liked the flavor of the bun better than anything with its nice rosemary taste. For you lovers of traditional American bar food, no need to worry—there is always a pulled pork or muffaletta sandwich to choose from. Also, sitting at the bar itself guarantees several good deals: wings for 25¢ each, jalapeño poppers for $1.75 and Oysters Rockefeller for just $1… romance anyone? Mr. “B” says that more specials will be announced with warmer weather.
In terms of spirits, there is no shortage. The tap offers several selections—all of which I sampled—including some that harken back to the neighborhood’s German roots like BBK and Julius Echter, as well as local mainstays such as Harp, Stella Artois, and Half Acre Over Ale. The bottled selection includes Lagunitas IPA and Domaine DuPage French Style Country Ale. My appreciation for this bar increased when the proprietor himself bought me (along with all of the members of the band Eurasia) a shot of Johnny Walker Gold. Now I just have to work my way up to Blue…
From the accounts of Mr. Bovalis, and by my own observations, business at his new establishment is hit or miss. I once observed a party of 70 in the back dining room, but it was a slow night on my last visit, so we just goofed off and took pictures of ourselves and the obliging and gracious cook, Sancho Martinez.
There are two other inconsistencies which I feel could be improved: the first is that it is always cold, cold, COLD inside, and I have not yet once sat comfortably at the bar without donning a jacket. Secondly, I noticed the tendency of the owner to change the music to his liking, even though the patrons may have requested something different. He likes jazz. Slow jazz. Really. Slow… Jazz.
That aside, Corner 41 is a welcome addition to the German bars like Glunz Bavarian Haus and Resi’s Bierstube and pricey bistros like Brown Trout and Chalkboard that are now common in North Center. For more information, check out the Corner 41 website.