UPDATE: Ownership said they’ve moved the opening to next week as they’ll hold friends and family service over the weekend. Revised story follows.
The front patio’s artificial turf’s been laid down and the 48-inch disco ball has been hung up as Happy Camper prepares to open its Wrigleyville location next week. It’s the fourth pizza bar for the owners — they run Homeslice in Lincoln Park, Happy Camper in Old Town, and Paradise Park in Wicker Park.
Co-owner Clay Hamilton said the group used the Old Town name in Wrigleyville because the sports-crazy customer base is the similar for both neighborhoods. They also have the name trademarked.
This location, 3458 N. Clark Street, is already marked with a giant silver glittering sign. The back stairs are also glittery. The main attraction here is the three outdoor areas. The Wicker Park location has a “trashy yet classy” vibe with its patio and the green turf. The Wrigleyville spot has the same vibe with a front patio that Cubs fans will be able to see as they walk to and from Wrigley Field. There’s also a back patio with a tall tree which gives the place a campsite feel. Hamilton said they’ll add a hanging velour couch to the outdoor space. The first floor features a large granite bar. There’s an exposed brick wall that will eventually be decorated with a neon sign similar to the pink Great Lakes sign hanging in Old Town.
The second floor features a bar and windows that slide out for an aerial view of the back patio. Then there’s the rooftop deck with seven TVs, picnic tables, and two booths that gently rock back and forth. Hamilton said he designed the downstairs so customers are within 15 feet of an outdoor area.
The new restaurant will serve the same menu as Old Town. That means thin-crust pizzas and salads. Happy Camper brings Clark Street its third pizzeria in the vicinity. It’s right across from late-night slice spot Dimo’s, and Union Full Board inside the Wheelhouse Hotel, which specializes in Detroit-style squares. Happy Camper will also serve weekend brunch.
When Homeslice opened in 2013, near DePaul University’s Lincoln Park campus, Hamilton said he and co-owner Josh Iachelli didn’t imagine opening more restaurants. But Chicago’s appetite for pizza has changed in that time.
“We know you’re always going to get those deep-dish lovers,” he said “But with the increasing wave of people from other states moving in, they don’t eat as much — they really gravitate toward thin crust.”
The space was a parking garage, and Hamilton said construction crews did a lot of work inside including building out a basement. The interiors feature many of the same elements that Happy Camper is known for with tons of TVs, twinkle lights, a DJ booth, and hallowed out RVs. It’s kind of a throwback to the shuttered Wrigleyville bars like John Barleycorn’s — the kind of spots with dance floors that dominated Clark Street before the recent wave of development (like Hotel Zachary) started by the owners of the Cubs, the Ricketts family.
The party will also head to the roof on Friday in Wicker Park. Paradise Park is debuting its own rooftop deck this weekend. The fun vibe is what sets Happy Camper apart from other pizzerias, Hamilton said.
“Josh and I always knew how to throw a great party and we do it on a regular basis,” he said.
With almost half of Major League Baseball’s season over for 2019, Hamilton is eager to open. Happy Camper is less than a five-minute walk south of Wrigley Field. The restaurant will serve friends and family this weekend and open to the general public next week. Check back later for a peek inside.
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