Dish Flash: Kendal Duque and Chicago Firehouse Owners to Open City Tavern in South Loop

Mainstay Hospitality, the company that owns Chicago Firehouse and Wabash Tap, plans to open the “18th-century tavernesque” City Tavern…

Like time, the history trend marches on. Mainstay Hospitality, the company that owns Chicago Firehouse and Wabash Tap, plans to open the “18th-century tavernesque” City Tavern (1416 S. Michigan Ave.; no phone yet) in early May in the space formerly occupied by Grace O’Malley’s. Kendal Duque, the chef at Chicago Firehouse and the opening chef at Sepia, will create the menu.

To create the old feel, the owners united the bar and dining areas and introduced warm woods and rich paint tones of blue and slate gray, evoking the Revolution-era inns of New England. (Chicago’s earliest taverns opened after the 18th century, in 1829 or 1830, near the spot where the North and South Branches of the Chicago River meet.) A coal fireplace warms the room literally in winter and figuratively in summer.

Duque says his menu will offer about a dozen entrées, a dozen appetizers, a few sides and sandwiches, and a selection of artisanal cheeses, cured meats, and house-made pâtés and terrines. “It will be a small menu focused on the ingredients, and they are going to be simple but elegant presentations,” he says. For example, instead of preparing walleye with butter sauce, he’ll use a vinaigrette and nuts, and maybe a side of artichoke and chanterelles. And don’t be surprised if Duque pairs some meat dishes with offal. Desserts will follow the same theme, as with a pistachio crème brûlée with rhubarb preserves.

Interesting phenomenon, this history trend: looking backward to old forms to find new ideas. Old is the new new.

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