Massive, Labyrinthine Restaurant, Bar, and Live-Music Venue Called Untitled to Open in River North
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“The concept is that it’s a speakeasy,” says Marc Bushala, a partner in the upcoming 17,000-square-foot restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue Untitled (111 W. Kinzie St.; 312-880-1511). “We’ve done a good job of keeping it quiet,” appropriately enough. Also appropriately, the Kinzie Street entrance keeps a low profile, and then customers who enter go immediately down a staircase to a dramatic space with 15- to 18-foot ceilings. Design elements from the 1920s and 1930s, such as Chesterfield couches and leather tufted walls, characterize the decor. A repurposed 18-foot bar from the 1920s serves as a reception desk. The design of the dining area is refined, Bushala says, “then the illicit part is more shabby-chic.”
The many different parts of Untitled unfold across the large single-level site:
• The restaurant seats about 100 diners, with a raw bar that also serves a wide selection of Champagne. Under the toque of Joe Heppe (Mercat, Vermilion), the kitchen will turn out traditional American food, with a focus on popular dishes from the 1920s and 1930s, such as oysters Rockefeller, as well as entrées such as steaks and pork chops for $20 to $30. Small plates priced between $8 and $12 are available throughout Untitled for snacking. Six private cabanas seat small parties in the main dining room with their own light dimmers and volume controls for the music. “A lot of sexy nuances there,” Bushala says.
• A private dining room for eight to ten people lies behind the bar. “That has a sliding picture that opens into the back of the bar, and the bartender can pass drinks through directly to that table,” Bushala says.
• The lounge holds a 30-foot bar and private booths, and hosts live performances, such as jazz, roots, or burlesque. Patrons can also watch shows from an 75- to 100-seat backstage area, which has its own bar. A 20-foot wall in the lounge slides back to allow access to a speakeasy. A VIP back entrance to the lounge comes off Carroll Street. After being open for about two months, Untitled will start a Thursday through Saturday supper club in the lounge. Untitled-branded liquors made in partnership with craft distillers will inform the cocktails. “It wouldn’t be a legitimate speakeasy without your own bathtub gin,” Bushala says.
• “The bar in the library features the largest selection of American whiskeys in the world,” Bushala says. The library, a space with an 18-foot ceiling and plush velvet booths, has a list of 265 whiskeys (and growing) as of this writing. Guests can store unfinished bottles in private liquor lockers. Dining is also available in the library.
• A large patio off the backstage area is located at ground level on Carroll Street.
• A mobile DJ booth designed and built by Redmoon Theater to evoke 1920s and 1930s cars can roll to any part of Untitled. “He [the DJ] can move through the space like a wandering minstrel,” Bushala says.
The owners hope to launch in June, but they don’t plan to announce it. “People will know when we are open,” Bushala says. Of course. We’re surprised they told us this much.
On the second floor of a building near Rush and Oak Streets, above Scoop and Ted Baker, waiting to strike is Jellyfish (1009 N. Rush St.; 312-660-3111). The 95-seat pan-Asian concept comes from Joseph De Vito, who opened Moto and La Vita, and Josh Carl, a player in several retail openings around Oak Street (Barneys, Lululemon). When it opens this summer, the restaurant will have a four-season glass atrium right above the two clothing stores, done up glam. “A sexy design like Miami, but Chicago hospitality,” Carl says. Harold Jurado, a veteran of Japonais, Sunda, Chizakaya, and Charlie Trotter’s former Las Vegas outpost Restaurant Charlie, will run the kitchen, alongside the sushi chef Andy Galsan. Appetizer prices will run about $8 to $14, entrées $18 to $25, and sushi rolls $8 to $15. Carl thinks Jellyfish can avoid the mistakes committed by other East Coasty places here. “A lot of people have come here from New York and Miami but don’t have their roots here in Chicago,” he says. Not to mention that, with that exhibit at the Shedd, jellyfish are totally in.
“The only thing that will make a soufflé fall is if it knows you are afraid of it.” —James Beard (1903–1985), American chef and food writer
Head of Steam
A marker of Nelson Algren’s “never a lovely so real” Chicago, the bathhouse has seen its popularity dwindle here from the days when Algren and Saul Bellow wrote gritty rhapsodies about it. Now we’re down to just the one under renovation in Wicker Park. “It is the last Russian/Turkish bathhouse in the city that remains,” says Alex Loyfman, a partner on the project. Planned for completion in July or August, the rehab includes carving out space for a restaurant, Red Square Café Lounge (1914 W. Division St.; no phone yet), with a menu of Russian- and Spanish-influenced small plates and serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Loyfman mentions borscht, lamb stew, grilled vegetables, and beet salad with almonds as possible dishes. Customers can visit the restaurant without paying admission to the spa, or they can get some steamed veggies after steaming themselves.
Updated Review: Sixteen
New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics' recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website. Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. Sixteen's rating had been pending because of its recent chef change. On newsstands now.
Sixteen (Trump International Hotel & Tower, 401 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-588-8151). Contemporary.
$$$$ ($50-plus per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
Thomas Lents (late of Joël Robuchon at The Mansion in Las Vegas), the new executive chef, makes creating exquisite food for one of the most opulent high-profile dining rooms in town seem almost effortless. If he's straining, you wouldn't know it from what appears before you: One dish after another impresses with well-considered interplay among tastes and textures, seasonal savoir-faire, and general artistry that never veers into preciousness. Order à la carte, or go for the splendid eight-course chef's tasting menu ($115); a 13-course prestige menu ($165) takes the excess to an even higher level. Formal service; serious wine program.
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
Pizza di Tutte Pizze
Last week on the Northwest Side, Due Amici Pizzeria (6107 W. Addison St.; 773-993-0998) opened, serving pizzas and other homemade Italian specialties such as lasagne and tiramisù. “I am not a classically trained chef. It’s basically all my grandmother’s recipes,” says Joe Garcia, who owns the restaurant with his longtime friend Ed Mozas. The pizzas have Grandma’s sauce, but not her crust—she made a twice-rising, spongy crust that’s too labor-intensive for restaurant use, except as an off-menu special. The pizzeria has table service on Friday and Saturday nights and counter service at other times, with more table service to follow if business dictates. The decor includes posters and quotations from gangster movies, a theme that the name of the restaurant didn’t signal to us. But ah, yes, Godfather’s Pizza was already taken, wasn’t it?
- Pollack lives the dream with the lobster crostini at Paris Club.
- Argent spices up the lowly pork stroganoff.
- Wilmette Chop House's salmon has an identity crisis.
Follow Pollack on Twitter. Next week, missives from Paris.
Things to Do
1. Lace up your beer-drinking shoes for the third annual installation of Chicago Craft Beer Week. The ten-day ode to suds kicks off tomorrow and features hard-to-find brews and special events at 200 venues. Overwhelmed with options? Check out The A.V. Club Chicago's picks for where to score the event's rarest beers.
2. Fuel up for Saturday's Crosstown Classic at Rockit Burger Bar's (3700 N. Clark St.; 773-645-4400) Crosstown Cookoff. The $25 feast includes the chef Amanda Downing's Northside Sliders (Black Angus patties topped with Old Style–battered fried pickle slices and mini Vienna beef hot dogs) or Southside Sliders (Black Angus patties topped with corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese), a fry buffet (with truffle, regular, waffle, and sweet potato fries), and two PBR or Old Style tall boys. Click here to purchase tickets.
3. Ponder whether push-up pops are the new dessert craze at Southport Grocery & Cafe (3552 N. Southport Ave.; 773-665-0100), where the blogger and author Courtney Dial Whitmore will sign copies of her new book about the cutesy pastries (the aptly titled Push Up Pops) on Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m.
- Antique Taco (1360 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-687-8697), a fast-casual restaurant serving traditional Mexican eats and cocktails in an Anthropologie-esque space, opens today.
- PT (Talbott Hotel, 10 E. Delaware Pl.; 312-640-8135), a pop-up restaurant in the Talbott Hotel which will serve American food under the direction of the Mercadito chef Patricio Sandoval until the hotel's new restaurant debuts this fall, also opens today.
- Market House on the Square (655 Forest Ave., Lake Forest; 847-234-8800), a restaurant from the owners of Bank Lane Bistro (which will close for the summer while the team focuses on the new spot) will open Friday in the former home of South Gate Cafe.
- According to the restaurateur Scott Harris, his brand-new doughnut business, Glazed and Infused, will open two of its three locations—at 813 West Fulton Street and 1553 North Damen Avenue—on May 21.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Crain's Chicago Business reports that the owners of the Streeterville P.J. Clarke's have opted to not renew the restaurant's lease. . . . The sommelier Michael Muser, who earned a Jean Banchet Award for his work at Avenues, will leave The Peninsula Hotel to rejoin Curtis Duffy (his former colleague at Avenues) as partner and general manager at Grace when it opens this fall. . . . We learned from Eater that the Pastoral team plans to open Bar Pastoral, a wine bar, next door to its Lake View sandwich shop this fall. . . . Cheers to the team at Arami: Bon Appétit named the Ukrainian Village charmer one of the best new sushi restaurants in America. . . . The new concessions menu at the revamped Logan Theatre includes Bobtail ice cream, Kim & Scott's pretzels, and craft beer on tap and in bottles. . . . According to The Stew, Tony Hu has acquired the Chinatown restaurant Spring World and will change it into Lao Yunnan. . . .The owner of Logan Square Kitchen announced today that, due to ongoing licensing challenges, the commercial kitchen and event space will shut down on June 28. . . . Wellfleet (4423 N. Elston Ave.; 773-283-7400), the restaurant portion of Fishguy Market, will begin Friday and Saturday dinner service this week.