3 Quick Minutes with… Eric Palm of Gunners


Eric Palm (r), his wife Brenda and brother Dan welcome everyone to the newly opened Gunners.

Eric Palm, owner of Gunners (1467 N. Milwaukee)

After years satisfying crowds of hungry, thirsty patrons at The Matchbox and The Silver Palm, Eric and Dan Palm are taking their burger-cocktail act to Wicker Park.  The new pub opened June 29,2010; while customers enjoyed the first rounds of burgers and drinks (my friends and I ordered cheeseburgers One through Three), Eric worked the bar, the kitchen, and the crowds, enjoying his first day as a restaurant owner.


I love the Matchbox. I cut my teeth there. That's one of the greatest bars in Chicago. I always knew that ownership was in my horizon, but I just sat back and waited patiently because I wasn't in a rush. I had a great gig working three days a week making full-time money. This deal came across our bow and we went for it.

I've lived in this neighborhood for 15 years. I've hung out in this neighborhood for 20 years. So I've seen it change. I know what it has. I know its strengths. I know its weaknesses. I knew that I could bring sort of a - not more of a "grown-up bar," but a different bar. More of a hang-out bar, as opposed to a theme bar. People ask me "What's your concept?" My concept is me being here, my brother being here, good people being here, good simple food. We know a lot about spirits and wine. The cocktails we are capable of making are phenomenal because of our background at the Matchbox and Silver Palm. It wasn't uncommon back in the day for people to say all night long, "Oh my god, this is the best margarita! This is the best Cosmo I've ever had!" Now that we're doing another place, we're bringing all the firepower.

There's few places to go for a variety of really good fresh cocktails. There are some places available. The Violet Hour's great, but some people don't want to behave that much. Because you have to be composed. And I take my hat off to them for creating that niche in a neighborhood like this. There are other bars in the neighborhood where you don't have to be composed at all, which is awesome. You know, we've all been there, or at that age, or both, or will be there again...


Eric accepts payment from first bar customer, Layne Marsh.

I'm bringing a bar to this neighborhood that I want to hang out at. And lord knows I will be hanging out at it. The wood and the ceilings lend themselves to a pub feel. If it turns into a "winter crowd" - you know, a lot of bars are dependent on their patio. Like Big Star for instance: they're killing it. But when they were Pontiac, the patio was what that place lived and died by. In the winter time, people weren't that interested. If we turn into a winter bar, I'm happy with that.

The neighborhood has got a lot of great things, but it's kind of missed the basics in my opinion. That's what we're bringing back. People don't want to spend a lot of money right now on entrees and stuff, so we're bringing back the basics, kind of going old school. That fits my personality, fits my mentality toward life. Keep it simple. Everybody's welcome. And at the same time if people walk in and think they're gonna run the joint, they're gonna be sorely mistaken, you know? Because we've got a lot of friends and family in here at all times.


First burger customers are enjoying their fist Gunner experience.

We've got a lot of talent in the kitchen. We've got a lot of cool ideas between my brother, my wife, myself, our friend Tony who set up the kitchen. We've got this great think tank. My brother is responsible for creating what Anthony Bourdain deemed the best sandwich in America. It's called the "Three Little Pigs" sandwich. We actually crashed the Mancow Show last Thursday and fed Mancow and Bourdain and did a blog on the air, so we've got street cred. We're going to fool around with sandwiches and then we're going to dig a little deeper. We want to make sure that the distribution of our product is good first and foremost, which is why we're only doing burgers tonight. We don't want to bury the guys in the back. We don't want to bury ourselves.

My brother's going to launch our own sandwich. He's got the name, he's still withholding the ingredients. We call it the "Hog's Boss." Sure to be some pork in there somewhere. The Hog's Boss is coming. We're going to fool around with everything from grill cheese and tomato soup to BLT's with avocado mayonnaise, to sausage dishes. We're focusing on smaller plates. We don't want people to come in and feel they have to spend 30, 40 dollars to get fed. You come in here and drop ten bucks and try a couple things, you know? That's the idea. Food that people want to eat when they're having good drinks and good times.


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