25 Degrees (Chicago): A pair of brothers brings a touch of old Hollywood glamor to a new River North burger bar

The restaurant's vintage Hollywood-inspired design has been described as "bordello meets burger bar." Photo by Alex Janowski

25 Degrees touts itself as a “bordello meets burger bar.”  But rest assured that you won’t find any ladies of ill repute languidly lounging around this cute new River North bar-restaurant.

The burger bar is actually an offshoot of a California chain founded by food and wine impresarios Tim and Liza Goodell, and it was an L.A. journalist who deemed its decadent décor brothel-esque.

“It was never the intent to design a place to look like a bordello,” but the fun tagline stuck, says Joe Boumaroun, who owns the Chicago location with his brother Mac.

Brothers Joe and Mac Boumaroun carried over some of 25 Degrees' design elements from the original eatery in Hollywood, Calif. Photo by Alex Janowski

The Boumarouns had been looking for an upscale burger concept to bring to the city and became enamored with 25 Degrees, whose flagship restaurant is located in the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

“We liked the ambiance, the décor, everything about it,” Mac says.  So the Boumarouns carried over several key design elements from the original 25 Degrees and replicated them in the River North spot that formerly housed the blues bar Blue Chicago.

Like its California cousins, the 88-seat bar-restaurant features flocked ruby-red wallpaper, oxblood Naugahyde button-tufted banquettes and clubby semicircular booths as well as black lacquered chandeliers.

But the brothers also added a number of their own touches, having developed an eye for hospitality design “from going to a number of high-end and casual restaurants,” Mac says.

The brothers added some of their own touches — such as beaded chandeliers and gilt-framed mirrors — to the bar-restaurant's design. Photo by Alex Janowski

They repaired the beat-up maple flooring — which was originally reclaimed from an old school gymnasium — and stained it a deep cherry hue.  The eatery’s rich wood wainscoting and imposing vintage U-shaped bar were also refurbished and restained.  And retro Hollywood oxblood Naugahyde and steel stools were selected as bar seating.

To further glamorize the space, the Boumarouns added a number of additional baubled and beaded chandeliers and few ornate wall sconces.  And they mixed in gilt-framed mirrors with the bar-eatery’s obligatory wall-mounted flat-screen televisions.

“It has a sexy vibe,” Mac says of the space.  And female visitors find the look particularly inviting.

The "sexy" interior elevates the burger bar concept. Photo by Alex Janowski

For the remaining furnishings, simple wood tables and highboys were matched respectively with unfussy, clean-lined chairs and stools.  The unornamented pieces were chosen so as not to detract from the room’s other, frillier elements.

“The simplicity of the [furniture] is a nice touch,” Joe says.

The brothers believe that the restaurant’s old-school Hollywood aesthetic sets it apart from other “wood-and-steel” burger joints.

Says Joe:  “It looks like we could be selling $60 or $70 steaks here.”

25 Degrees Chicago
736 North Clark Street
Chicago, Illinois  60654


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