Photo courtesy of mercer one thirteen
Michael Lachowicz is in a happy place. The chef/owner of Restaurant Michael in Winnetka lost 190 pounds, kicked his addictions, and added a new gig: rethinking the menu at Mercer One Thirteen (113 W. Hubbard St., 312-396-0113).
Roman Sánchez and Michael González, regular customers at Restaurant Michael and Mercer One Thirteen’s owners, asked him to run the restaurant part of the lounge/restaurant. He said no. “I don’t want to be a downtown chef. I made my peace with that a long time ago,” Lachowicz says. “But then I talked myself into it. What have I got to lose?”
Sánchez and González wanted to turn the food at Mercer One Thirteen into something it could be known for, Lachowicz says. “They are club, pub, and lounge guys. They do very well for themselves,” he says. But from a chef’s point of view, the menu was disjointed.
“It went from really expensive $45 steak to fried wings,” Lachowicz says. “I like chicken wings, but if you have a $175-bottle wine list, there is a disconnect and people don’t know how to use you.”
He revamped the menu into a continental American supper-club concept. He kept the high-quality steaks and added items such as pan-roasted salmon with wild mushrooms, brown-butter sweet potato, and black-peppercorn Champagne sauce. Instead of wings, the starters now include Thai-spiced tuna tartare with lotus root chips.
Lachowicz signed up for a year, which started on May 1. He’s grooming a Restaurant Michael alum named Patrick Cook to be the chef after he’s done. Lachowicz says his end date is negotiable, but he probably won’t be in the kitchen right around the beginning of May 2014. He’s getting married in late April, and he’ll probably be in some happy place like Aruba.