Known to Chicagoans’ tongues from Mercat a la Planxa and their eyes from his appearances on Iron Chef, chef José Garces will head the restaurant in the nearly complete Loews Chicago Hotel in Streeterville. Rural Society (Loews Chicago Hotel, 455 N. Park Dr., 312-840-6605), an Argentine steak house named for the trade group that oversees an annual agricultural and livestock show in Buenos Aires, is scheduled to open on March 2.
Rural Society will source much of its beef from South America, including the bife de chorizo—how Argentineans would refer to a rib eye—and the filete (a tenderloin). The lomo will be domestic New York strip, dry-aged at least 45 days. Garces says 80 percent of the menu will be cooked over hardwood and charcoal on—trend alert!—the ten-foot open grill in the dining room.
Other sections of the menu will offer traditional Argentinean dishes such as provoleta (grilled aged provolone with arugula, oregano, and aji picante), empanada tucumana (with wagyu beef), and an asado mixto of beef, pork, and blood sausages, morcilla, and lamb sweetbreads. Cory Morris, the executive chef at Mercat, will transfer over to Rural Society; Evan Behmer will receive an internal promotion to head Mercat.
Because it’s in a hotel, like Mercat, Rural Society will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Also like Mercat, Garces says he expects locals will constitute about 50 percent of the diners. Unlike Mercat, Rural Society will have a more subdued (i.e., not so loud) atmosphere.
Garces grew up in Chicago, near Diversey and Cicero. Line items on his early resumés might have included Gordon Tech, Kendall College, and five years lifeguarding at Foster Beach. He now lives in Philadelphia’s Logan Square neighborhood. “I can’t get out of Logan Square,” he says. Chicago dining journalists have been saying that same thing for about five years now.