The South-East Asia Center building at 5120 N. Broadway is one of the most architecturally interesting and unusual in the neighborhood with it’s stone detail and rooftop turret.
People often ask why the sign says “restaurant” and why there is a Schlitz logo near the roof. The logo is there because the building was built originally in 1904 as a food and drinking establishment that sold exclusively Schlitz Beer. Serving beer from a single brewery gave this location the designation of “tied house” meaning the owner was “tied” to the brewery through an exclusive arrangement. There are only a handful of “tied houses” left standing in Chicago which is one of the reasons for landmark status. Look for the plaque near the front entrance. You can read more at the City of Chicago Landmark webpage.
Over the years the building housed a variety of ethnic restaurants including a German Beer Garden purported to be a favorite with local silent film stars, including Charlie Chaplin, working at the nearby Essanay Studios. Many long time residents remember it for many years as Azuma specializing in Japanese cuisine. The stained glass windows and several of the interior details provide hints to the building’s previous incarnations.
The South-East Asia Center administration elected to keep the restaurant sign as part of the original décor. It also makes some sense since it is the entrance to our Golden Diners Program making lunch available for local seniors.
Next time you visit or walk by, take a close look at the various details and be sure to enjoy this slice of Chicago Uptown history.