Jun 19, 2015
At Work With Wade McElroy
Steven: Tell us a little about your career path and how you got to where you are now.
Wade: I moved to New York in 2008 after college at ASU. I started working for a start up doing sales and I fucking hated it. In 2009 I began working as a captain on the floor at the Standard Grill in the new Standard Hotel NYC. I worked my way up to the bar until I left to bartend and eventually take over the bar program at Rye House. From there I left to be on the opening team of a restaurant called The Dutch. I spent my time there until I was sick of paying New York rent prices and up and moved to Chicago in late 2011. My first job here was opening The Barrelhouse Flat where I met my business partner Jeff Donahue and the rest of the Chicago industry community. During my two years there Jeff and I had started planning out a concept for our own project. After teaming up with Matt Eisler and Kevin Heisner, the masterminds behind Trencherman, Revel Room, and Bar Deville to name a few, Sportsman's Club was born. From the day the doors opened it's been all systems go with the best crew we could ask for. It's been a great year and a half so far with a great response from our customers and industry friends.
S: What's your typical day look like?
W: Both Jeff and I have slowly moved out of a hands-on role in the bar to more of Directors of Operations. Now our days are filled with more paper work than anything. Right now I'm spending my time between managing operations at Sportsman's and opening up five more projects. We're in the final stages of opening our new project, Pub Royale, so I've been spending a lot of time putting the finishing touches on that and making sure our management processes are in place. Our plates are full at the moment so there's no shortage of work to be done (chuckles).
S: What would you say the best part of your job is?
W: Creativity. I love being able to push the boundaries on what we can do. At Sportsman's Club we create a new menu every day, which keeps us creatively challenged. And now moving into this new director role we have the ability to craft full concepts from scratch and develop those ideas, watching them become successful establishments.
S: Do you have any special talents?
W: I play a very mediocre basketball game (laughs). I tend to focus a lot of my creative energy on cooking and making drinks. So I guess you could say I'm good at cooking.
S: What have you been listening to lately?
W: I listen to all sorts of music but I've really been into the new Kendrick a lot. Also been into the new Courtney Barnett, Father John Misty, but mostly that new Kendrick album.
S: Do you play it in the bar?
W: Sometimes, in fact, it's pretty cool how we do the music here because we play it off an old reel-to-reel player. We have DJs come in and spin vinyls and we record them to the analogue tapes. When we play it back you get the pretty unique sound of that old raspy vinyl sound which digital just can't replace.
S: Do you drive a car?
W: I drive a Buick Enclave (laughs). I drive like an old man so it's nice to drive an old man car. I wasn't planning on getting a Buick but now that I have it, it's a great freaking car.
S: What's your dream car?
W: Whoa, man I've always been a fan of the early 60's fast back mustangs.
S: Do you ever get out of Chicago?
W: All the time. From time to time I still visit Arizona where I'm from, San Diego, and New Orleans. I make it out to New York quite often still too. It's by far my favorite place to visit. Makes me feel like I'm still a part of it every time I go back.
S: Favorite place to eat in Chicago?
W: That's always a tough one to answer with so much great food in Chicago. I'd have to be a toss up between La Sirena Clandestina and Avec. If you've never been you have to check them out!
S: How about drink? Outside of your own bar, of course.
W: There are so many different types of drinking though. I really love Analogue. I live half a block from Bar Deville so I certainly spend a lot a time there. I still love going to Big Star during the day when it's not absolute mayhem. The Whistler is always a favorite. If I'm drinking wine I'm going to Rootstock. I could honestly go on forever about my favorites.
S: Why do you wear Stock?
W: Honestly, they make great stuff here in Chicago and their price points are great. The guys that run it are honest and there's a lot of integrity with that brand. They truly put everything they've got into it and they make super handsome clothes. Every time I rock their stuff or I see them out anywhere I'm always impressed with the work that they do.
S: What does Chicago mean to you? Would you consider it your home now?
W: Definitely. For me it's meant a lot for opportunity. The friendships I've been able to gain here are tremendous. I've definitely met a lot of good people.
S: Thanks, Wade. Now get back to work.