“When I was in college, my roommates and I opened a bar in our house at Southern Illinois University. That was my first actual bar. We use to make $1,000 over the weekend, but then we got in trouble and had to shut it down. That was back in 1977.” says Donnie of Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap in Chicago.

“After I graduated college for advertising I focused on my career in marketing and advertising for 10 years. I worked with Playboy, ABC, American Bar Association, etc. Then, I became a limited partner of Melvin B’s (at State and Cedar). At that time everything around there was a fast food chain yet it had so much potential.”

At first glance, you might not take this jolly man for a restaurateur, but you would be highly mistaken. Because you see, it takes a visionary to see potential in what was once a corporate chain district. Especially when everyone else says you’re crazy.

“When Stanley’s opened in 1993, everyone thought we were crazy, but I thought that a fun bar and home cooked food was what the neighborhood needed. We had extraordinary food where no one else did. We opened with fried chicken, burgers, and mac n’ cheese, for what’s been already 23 years! And that’s what’s still hot right now. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, is still our specialty. Dubbed God’s Own Mac n’ Cheese by the Chicago Tribune, our food was and still is right on point.” says Donnie. “I grew up playing hockey, so in 1993 the Blackhawks players started coming to Stanley’s. We fed all the Canadians french fries with gravy (we were the first bar to serve poutine). We sponsored a few teams (Chargers, Johnny’s Ice House, etc.) and when hockey in Chicago took off, we did too. We were a cult following because from the start we played hockey on our tv’s verses basketball. Chris Chelios is a good friend of mine too, so he frequents here as well, which doesn’t hurt.” chuckles Donnie. “When we did our ribbon cutting for the Stanley’s Blackhawks Bar in the O’Hare Airport, all of the Hawks came out and the place went crazy! Even the President to the Hawks was there; what an event for the books.”

So how does a dive bar in Lincoln Park survive on a corner with nothing else around it? As Donnie stated, the food is on point. Donnie has everyone and their mom supporting Stanley’s. That’s some powerful people skills if you ask me.

If the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field are a fan, so am I!

“The Stan Burger was the official burger for the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field for 4 years. It won the Roscoe Village Burger Fest and was featured in Chicago Gourmet Hamburger Hop. It’s a SKT Proprietary beef burger, brisket and short rib and chuck. Ground fresh and delivered daily. Cheddar and American cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, red onion, and don’t forget the secret Stanley sauce!”

Insider Tip: Every now and then you’ll still find FREE midnight mashed potatoes and gravy – if you’re lucky!

Where’s Pappy Van Winkle Been Hiding?

“We offer Kessler Whiskey (Kentucky American Whiskey). If you buy a few bottles of beer, you can take a shot on the house. It’s smooth as silk. Or you can try a Pappy Van Winkle’s, and NO ONE has that! It’s rare and you would never know we carry it, but we DO!” brags Donnie.

Bloody Mary Bar Sundays You Say?

“We also do a lot with Titos Vodka. Through the University of Texas, which is where Titos is from, we became the Texas bar. My former manager went to work for Titos so it was just a win win! And don’t forget the Bloody Mary bars on Sundays (32oz) – make your own. We use Titos for this of course.” says Donnie. “We do a lot with Lagunitas as well and have built a really good relationship over the years. We even share a flag together!”

Take it from Donnie

It’s fair to say that Donnie is the cool cat in town and it was a honor to interview him. If you need to know anyone or anything about the hospitality industry, you can ask Donnie. Be prepared to listen to stories for days, but if you’re down to learn a thing or two from before your time, Donnie’s your guy. And if you need anything, he’s the first to offer. That’s what this industry is lacking, and he understands “hospitality” at it’s core. If I were you, I would head on down to Stanley’s and pop a squat next to Donnie for an hour, sip on a Pappy Van Winkle (because you can), stuff your face with fried chicken and mashed potatoes and ask all the questions your little heart desires.