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Campus Lounge Reopens This Week Under New Owners

The Campus Lounge looks the same from the outside, but holds surprises inside.EXPAND
The Campus Lounge looks the same from the outside, but holds surprises inside.
Mark Antonation

Update: According to the owners of the Campus Lounge, a last-minute fire department requirement has moved the opening of the restaurant from today (Wednesday, January 29), to Friday, January 31.

The saga of the Campus Lounge continues: This week, new owners will re-open the storied bar on the edge of Washington Park and Bonnie Brae for the third time in as many years. But this time things could go better, thanks to a combination of new draws and a little intangible magic.

The new owners are the same folks who run Recess Beer Garden, and they've made sure that the new incarnation of the Campus Lounge looks and feels like a neighborhood bar. Even during daylight hours, the place feels warm and welcoming — and just dark enough, without being dim or dreary, to feel appropriate for day drinking. The decor leans heavily toward a camping and outdoor-recreation theme, with antique water skis, fishing gear and Great Lakes nautical tchotchkes lining the walls and shelves; there's even an entire canoe suspended from the ceiling in the game room, which now sports billiards, shuffleboard and video games. Wood accents such as wainscoting and chair rails add to the warmth.

The burger is big and comes topped with a bacon-wrapped jalapeño.EXPAND
The burger is big and comes topped with a bacon-wrapped jalapeño.
Mark Antonation
Nothing quite like a well-stocked salad bar.EXPAND
Nothing quite like a well-stocked salad bar.
Mark Antonation
The bar is comfort-built for the long haul.EXPAND
The bar is comfort-built for the long haul.
Mark Antonation
Smoked wings come with a variety of sauce options.EXPAND
Smoked wings come with a variety of sauce options.
Mark Antonation

For a short time, the Campus Lounge had an open kitchen, but that felt a little fancy for the place.EXPAND
For a short time, the Campus Lounge had an open kitchen, but that felt a little fancy for the place.
Mark Antonation

The menu, too, has neighborhood appeal. Smoked wings come with a variety of sauces, a hefty burger comes cooked to order, and a couple of value-priced steaks are just right for a Friday night out. To go with those steaks: How about a trip or two to the salad bar (when was the last time you saw one of those?) or a loaded baked potato?

Owen Olson, one of the owners, says that the building's owner, Charlie Woolley of the St. Charles Town Co., recently purchased the Ink Coffee building next door, so Campus Lounge guests should soon be able to share parking with coffee customers in the back. Olson grew up just a few blocks away and remembers coming to the Campus Lounge with his family when he was a kid. So while the main bar, with its padded turquoise arm rail, is built for hanging out for the long haul, the dining room and game room are more family-friendly.

Opening day is Friday, January 31, at 701 South University Boulevard. Visit the Campus Lounge Facebook page for more details.

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