From breakfast to bar, Bat 17 aims to fill every niche

James Carlton

You can call Bat 17 a sandwich place if you’d like. Just don’t tell that to Jim Pomerantz.

Pomerantz, one of the managing partners of the restaurant that calls itself “a distinctive breakfast/lunch/dinner/deli/pub” would tell you Bat 17 is all that and more.

“Everyone says you can’t be all things to all people,” he said. “But who decided that? Who wrote that law? We wanted to try.”

For almost a year and a half, Bat 17 has aimed to redefine the neighborhood eatery as an eclectic restaurant featuring immense sandwiches. According to the restaurant’s owners, customers often ask what ‘Bat 17’ means. Aside from the mural of bats painted against a wall, the name stands for the Benson Avenue Tavern on Evanston’s 1700 block.

Pomerantz said he and fellow managing partner James Hurley have worked to make Bat 17’s food a downtown Evanston favorite.

“It’s the best sandwich you can buy,” Pomerantz said, though he conceded his restaurant is “certainly not the cheapest.”

Sandwiches are available as either regular or full-sized, and stack higher than those at most other sandwich shops in the area. Pomerantz said he recognizes that his sandwiches are more than a mouthful.

“We use the best bread and the finest meats,” he said. “And we give you eight ounces of meat, not two like some places.”

The bread Bat 17 uses for its sandwiches is made specially at nearby Bennison’s Bakery by Certified Master Baker Jory Downer, an arrangement the managers sought out before opening the restaurant.

“The bread makes the sandwich,” Pomerantz said. “If you’ve got bad bread, you’re going to have a bad sandwich.”

Medill sophomore Bill Pulte said he can attest to the size of Bat 17’s sandwiches. Pulte ordered the K-2 burger, a cheeseburger piled thick with Vermont white cheddar cheese and coleslaw, and served on grilled sourdough bread.

“It was a great sandwich,” Pulte said. “It’s different from other places because the bread is so much better.”

In keeping with the owners’ jack-of-all-trades mantra, a free coffee and tea bar is available to anyone and everyone who comes through the door, whether the person sits down for a meal or simply comes in for the free cup. The owners said the coffee and tea bar is especially tempting for travelers who stop in for a bite before boarding the El nearby at Davis Street.

“I always hated paying $1.50 for a cup of coffee,” Pomerantz said. “The coffee bar is just a nice gesture. If people are shopping downtown or waiting for a train in the cold they can come in and have a cup. People remember that and there’s been a terrific response to it.”

Weinberg senior Brad Hutter said they noticed some of the other ways Pomerantz has made Bat 17 customer-friendly.

“It’s a good atmosphere,” Hutter said. “It’s a nice place to get food and drinks with a friend and just talk.”

Pulte said the bar’s ambience was particularly appealing.

“People seem happy to be here,” Pulte said. “It’s a lively place with a great atmosphere.”

Hutter said the restaurant’s size was at times an issue and noted how “closely-packed together everything is.”

Particularly popular among Northwestern students are Bat 17’s signature beer towers, 105-ounce glasses of select beer sold for $22. Pomerantz said on a given night, most or all of the towers are out on tables, and that recently an NU student celebrating a birthday with 40 friends shared 23 towers.

“It’s a unique place in Evanston,” Hutter said. “It’s a good spot to eat and hang out.”

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