City Tap offers favorites with special twists
John Tate, owner of City Tap and Grill in Norridge | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 11, 2012 8:03AM
John Tate likes hanging out here.
And, if he likes it, he thinks you probably will, too.
Tate, who has almost 20 years in the restaurant and bar business, bought the Main Pub & Grill and transformed it into City Tap & Grill, 7320 W. Irving Park Road, Norridge, last fall.
Tate said he wanted to create a place with a warm, welcoming, neighborhood tavern feel, so he made some cosmetic changes — painted the walls a mustard yellow, hung artwork depicting Chicago area icons such as Wrigley Field — and added diversity to the drink and food menus.
“I wanted to create a place that I’d want to hang out at,” Tate said, adding that extends to the food and drink he serves.
He called the fare pub food with a twist, listing examples.
“We offer calamari and buffalo calamari,” he said. “Our chili has giardiniera on it. Our City Tap Burger, which is our most popular one, comes with giardiniera. I didn’t want to compete with some of the legendary pizza places we have around here, so we did flatbread. We just threw a little twist on your typical bar fare.”
His favorite item on the menu changes daily, but for now it’s the Stockyard Sandwich, which includes shaved rib-eye, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and chipotle mayonnaise, and it comes with either of fries or tater tots. But, then, he also swears by the mac and cheese and fried pickle chips.
Tate added more beers to the lineup in order to appeal to varying tastes. There are your typical lagers from the big breweries and a variety of offerings from microbreweries. There’s a beer for everyone, he said.
“We have everything from Old Style up to Three Floyds Gumballhead,” he said. “I wanted to make it a place that everyone felt comfortable at.”
“I want a place that you can come to after work or that, on a Saturday afternoon, you can bring your kids to,” he added. “A place where everyone in the neighborhood — no matter what age, what demographic — feels comfortable.”
City Tap & Grill also has entertainment three nights a week. Karaoke is on Thursdays, live bands on Fridays and DJs on Saturdays.
Tate started out doing marketing for Ala Carte Entertainment, then moved into operations where he managed restaurants for five years.
“I loved marketing, but I was much better at managing,” he said.
He then worked as a district manager and later as regional manager for Restaurants-America.
When he worked for House of Blues, he helped open the Dallas venue.
He returned to Chicago when Restaurants-America asked him to come back, which he did for two more years.
“I knew at that time it was time to start looking for my own business,” he said.
Tate learned a lot working for entertainment and restaurant companies, and that knowledge provided him with the wisdom he uses today to run City Tap and Grill.
“The ultimate goal was to have my own place. Except for being a chef, I’ve pretty much done every job in the business,” he said. “I opened places all over the country, from Boston to Dallas to Denver to Chicago, and the one thing that I learned was every market is different. You have to change, not the market. If you open a place in Boston versus Dallas, you can’t open the exact same place. Coming here, I feel like I’m a guest in this neighborhood, in Norridge. It’s my job to create an environment, an atmosphere, that the people who live here are going to like, not something that I wrote down on paper a few years ago. You have to be somewhat of a chameleon.”