There was a martial arts-themed restaurant named after Steven Seagal in River North in the early 1990s. Yes, that Steven Seagal. Yes, seriously. There’s a lot people don’t know about the city’s history with celebrity restaurants, including why some succeeded where most have failed and why the trend continues.
When people think of celebs who got involved in the restaurant industry in the Chicago area, the majority just think of Harry Caray, Mike Ditka and Michael Jordan. With ex-WWE pro wrestler Lisa Marie Varon opening The Squared Circle in Lincoln Park in March, it seemed like a good time to tell the story of other celebrity restaurants.
Of course, getting those who have thrived in the restaurant business to talk about the subject was significantly easier than getting those who have failed.
Fortunately, I was able to interview Fire coach Frank Klopas, who co-owned the now-closed The Pitch in Lincoln Park and whom I knew from my days as the Tribune’s soccer reporter, as well as James Pomerntz, co-owner of the short-lived Steven Segal’s.
Both men took much of the blame for their respective restaurant’s failures rather than point fingers, which I thought was admirable -- especially when so many of these other restaurants ended in lawsuits.
-- Luis Gomez