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Last Minute Plans: A "Fern Bar" Halloween at the Whistler

By Roger Kamholz in Food on Oct 31, 2011 6:00PM

2011_10_31_whistler_bar.jpgStill got some Halloweening left in the tank after the past weekend? If so, you'll want to dust off your finest synthetic threads for this. Taking a cue from its Logan Square neighbor Lula Café, - which in years past has "dressed up" on Halloween as Kuma's Corner and a zombie Hot Doug's - the Whistler will also be in costume this evening, embodying the looks and spirit (and spirits) of The Great American Fern Bar.

What's a fern bar, you ask? According to Martin Cate, who runs the San Francisco tiki bar Smuggler's Cove, the fern bar concept took off with Henry Africa's, another San Fran establishment, back in 1970. "Much of the iconography and style of the fern bar was the result of one man, Norman Hobday, who, like a latter-day Don The Beachcomber, created a wholly new concept based on the idea that bars should be inviting and comfortable, like your grandmother's living room," Cate writes. (You know, heavy on the tchotchkes.) As for the cocktail culture espoused by the fern bar, think the Lemon Drop, the Harvey Wallbanger, the Tequila Sunrise, wine spritzers and, Cate adds, "lots of drinks with ice cream." The fern bar went on to help spur restaurant chains like T.G.I Friday's.

So, in other words, don't expect your typical Whistler fare tonight. That said, we suspect McGee and his fellow bartenders to surprise and delight us with their renditions of these shunned outsiders of prevailing craft-cocktail culture. The (optional) dress code for the evening? Your best 70s/80s yuppy ensembles, of course.

The Whistler is located at 2421 N. Milwaukee Ave.