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Industry Ink: Cory Ichikawa Wintersteen

The burly bartender at Surly Brewing is just about to give his name when he remembers, “ Wait, I just got married.” So now his name is Cory Ichikawa Wintersteen, a tribute to his father-in law, who is first generation Japanese with no male heirs to pass the name on to. His wife, Mika, grew up in her father’s restaurant, Origami, and on the last night the sushi restaurant was open in the North Loop, Wintersteen proposed to her (the Uptown restaurant is going strong). 

In solidarity, the couple has matching tattoos, an alpaca, which unfortunately was hidden by Wintersteen’s shirtsleeve. But we did get a tour of the visible tats.

Spelled across his knuckles is “Sine Metu,” which means “without fear,” the family motto of the Jameson family, the makers of Jameson whiskey. “I’m Irish and I counted it out” and the eight letters fit perfectly on his eight fingers, he says. A large red–and-blue star is for a friend who passed away; another smaller blue star represents another friend (who is not a lesser friend, he’s still alive, he answers, grinning).

An outline of a hawk clutching a banner that reads “Sinner” in its talons is for his uncle whose nickname was Sinner. A sun honors another friend who passed away and a blue rose is in memory of his grandmother Liddy. “She liked blue,” he explains. 

Armed with so many tributes, his “fun one” is a tat of a hula girl on his right forearm. “When I get bored she dances,” he says, rotating is wrist where the grass skirt on his fist sways.

But the two most surprising tattoos aren’t visible to the naked eye. “I was a bartender without a tooth for awhile,” he says. The tooth had to be pulled when it abscessed and he says on a bartender’s salary he couldn’t pay for dental work so he was constantly asked, “Where’s your tooth?” He lifts his hair out of the way to show off the cranial bone behind his ear where a tooth is tattooed. There’s my tooth, he jokes.

But that’s nothing compared to the last tattoo he shows off. A few years ago, his buddies (there was probably Jameson involved) razzed him about telling his girlfriend that he loved her too soon. To remind himself to think before he spoke, he had “think” tattooed on the inside of his bottom lip. Since he ended up marrying that girlfriend, one could argue that he didn’t say those three little words too soon, which is all good, because as he demonstrated when he pulled his bottom lip out, “The word is fading.” 

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