Bareksten Best Bar Design Award 2024

Bareksten Best Bar Design Award 2024

Avondale Bowl


Vintage americana reimagined as a fun-fuelled bar

New for North America’s 50 Best Bars programme in 2024 is the Bareksten Best Bar Design Award. It’s another opportunity for bars that have not previously been ranked by 50 Best to receive an accolade; venues are invited to self-submit applications to have their design assessed and ranked by six of the greatest minds in the world of hospitality design.

The inaugural winner for North America did not, in fact, start its life as a bar at all, but rather a classic, all-American bowling alley. Housed in a nondescript building decorated only by a small neon sign, you’d be forgiven for not realising what lies beneath as you stroll along Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago. In fact, the venue had been ignored by everyone since the early 1990s, until Luke Blahnik stumbled on it while property hunting. Inspired by the dilapidated charm and potential of the vintage space, he started a lengthy renovation project that has trodden a fine line between innovation and historical preservation.

The bones and echoes of the original space have been meticulously retained – from the lanes, pin setters and ball returns to the green colour scheme, which was inspired by the paint on the one remaining wall that hasn’t been refurbished.

Range Design & Architecture principal Casimir Kujawa, architect Le Nguyen and creatives from Studio 6F made up the team behind the re-design, but they leant on local talent, too, employing Chicago artist Ryan Duggan to design the merchandise and retro manual scorecards.

The bar itself is almost entirely new and flooded with light thanks to the ingeniously installed central skylight. What has remained, however, is the curved mahogany bar rail that sweeps around, creating an inviting and stylish place to prop yourself and enjoy one of the bar’s 80s-inspired cocktails – think frozen White Russians and King Pin Sours (Bison Grass vodka, lime leaf, fresh lemon and coconut soda).

An intelligently created bar-cum-bowling alley, this thoughtfully and reverently crafted space manages to mix functionality with fun and is a worthy winner of this year’s Bareksten Best Bar Design Award at North America’s 50 Best Bars awards.