August 18, 2020

Jordan Mozer’s Latest Restaurant Project is a Family Affair

The 60-foot-long mural by Eliza Mozer is leather and felt. Photography by Tom Rossiter.

Jordan Mozer is a renowned force in hospitality. Not only in his native Chicago where he has practiced for the past 30 years, but throughout the U.S., in Europe, particularly Germany, and in Asia, where he recently completed a project in South Korea. Similarly creative is his family: wife Karen focusing on residential design in the JMA studio; twin children Chloe and Iz (who uses they/them); and eldest daughter Eliza living in Berlin. Together, their talents encompass just about every medium in the arts as well as the maker movement. Strangely enough, they had never before worked together. Until transformation of a derelict Art Deco-era garage in Chicago’s Logan Square area changed the dynamic. First, the site was designed as the restaurant Twain, as in Mark. When the chef departed, it became Papa, as in Oak Park-born Hemingway. Design, most of it carried over from one to the other, took its Midwest inspiration from the menus as well as location. Though COVID closed Papa as it did for indoor dining nationwide, Interior Design paid a visit to celebrate the Mozer family collaboration and the project’s evolution. “Just as the chefs sourced regional foodstuffs, we hand-made every detail with local materials, artisans, and manufacturers,” notes Jordan. His charming watercolors served as blueprints along the way.

JMA transformed an Art Deco-era garage into Twain restaurant, now called Papa. Photography by Tom Rossiter.

As architect, he took charge of initial work. Operable windows were added to the restored façade, as was a mostly new roof and concrete floor. Next came space-planning with a bar at street front and five blue-washed Douglas fir arches creating grid-like circulation for the dining room and display kitchen.

Then the arts took over. Eliza, a tattoo artist and chef to boot, created Twain’s logo, rendered in aluminum at the entry’s copper and steel archway. Behind, is the first of Chloe’s bronze murals, depicting the Hawthorne blossoms of Missouri’s state flower. Inside, her copper back bar is a whimsical Twain homage. Look closely to see Huckleberry Finn’s Duke and Dauphin, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” and all sorts of farm creatures. Meanwhile, Eliza’s 60-foot-long, six-panel work of leather and felt is inspired by descriptions of Uncle John’s farm and spans one lengthwise wall. Squirrels, cast in a recycled aluminum-magnesium alloy perch on ledges and scamper up columns, while Halley’s comet is acknowledged as a chandelier combining acoustic felt panels with handblown glass and sand-cast aluminum bracket, all from Chicago.

The copper back bar by Chloe Mozer is a homage to Mark Twain. Photography by Tom Rossiter.

With the reincarnation to Papa came Iz’s logo and a façade painted in Mediterranean shades of ocher, terra cotta and brick. Inside, they created the “Bull and Roses” mural for the private dining area to face the leather and felt “Dawn to Dusk Along the Mississippi.” Jordan weighed in for the final say. His portrait of Papa adorns the lounge furnished with JMA loveseats. Come COVID’s end, come NeoCon’s re-launch, we look forward to checking it out, as well as the menu, in person.

Meanwhile, Mozer is keeping busy repurposing another project. He is transforming his studio into a gallery featuring art and JMA’s furnishings. Viewing, for the time being, will be through 14-foot-long windows where he is creating rotating displays. Or, online, of course.

Cast-recycled aluminum-magnesium alloy squirrels live on ledges behind the bar. Photography by Tom Rossiter.
The leather and felt mural is made up of six panels. Photography by Tom Rossiter.
Whimsical and metal elements continue into the lavatory. Photography by Tom Rossiter.
Iz Mozer designed the Papa logo. Photography by Tom Rossiter.

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