Fresh Find: Tavern 245

It's no big deal when it happens on the South Side, but hey, a tavern opens Downtown and it's news.

Some of us have been keeping an eye on 245 Fourth Ave., the relatively tucked-away location (just below Wood Street) where months ago a giant sign was retrofit in neon for Tavern 245.

It finally, softly, opened two weeks ago, a fact I was alerted to by Weekend Mag columnist Munch. "Didn't go in but peered through the window and noticed they have Big Hop on tap, so I like it already!" Munch e-mailed me, a fellow fan of the East End Brewing Co. ale.

I strolled in one evening last week to the just-dark-enough space, classily decorated in a sleek black and gold theme. There are plush seating areas in the front and in the back, where a tiger-striped easy chair and leather sectional beckon. But I sat at one of seven stools at the bar and ordered a Big Hop ($5.75), one of five brews on tap.

One of two guys sitting down the bar was smoking, and while I can't say how much I hate smoking, even that seemed to fit the place's '50s feel.

As one woman put it as she and friends came in and headed for the couch, "This is nice."

I was digging how cozy it was when I picked up on the fact that there's a dining room upstairs, so I walked up the steps and it wowed me, too: an expansive, airy space with a funky greenish concrete floor and mod windows opening to the street and that giant sign.

The upstairs bar has a dozen taps, including some of my favorites such as Great Lakes; the place also offers some two dozen bottles, as well as wines and cocktails.

The "modern American" menu, executed by executive chef Jay Lewis (formerly of Palomino) and his staff, is tight: Small plates including soft tacos ($5 to $11) and sandwiches and salads ($7 to $12). The spiced Tavern Hamburgesa is dressed in house-made guacamole, chipotle mayo and Colby jack cheese, with house made pico de gallo on the side. They do daily specials, too.

A grand opening celebration will be held eventually, says co-owner and general manager Chip Hamilton. He formerly was one of the principals behind South Side's The Library. The sign, he explained, used to advertise Cabot Travel. He credits the Tavern's interior decor to interior designer Jacky Kaiser, and also has sincere props for his wife, Mindy, a pediatric intensivist at Children's Hospital, "so she understands crazy hours."

Those are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat. (the lounge stays open until 2 a.m.). More: (not much there yet) and 412-281-4345.

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