Bucktown residents will not have to wait too much longer to replace the hole left in their hearts by the closing of Takashi at 1952 North Damen Avenue. The former Michelin star restaurant had its last call in January 2015 and was marooned on the real estate market for several months until barbecue star Charlie McKenna bought it with the plan to transform the space into his new, upscale Southern restaurant, Dixie, set to open in late spring.
McKenna was initially working on the concept for Dixie prior to his success with Lillie’s Q, a barbecue restaurant on North Avenue. Lillie’s Q was rated best new barbecue in the country by Food & Wine in 2011, and has expanded to include a Lillie’s Q outpost in the Chicago French Market, a restaurant at the United Center, and a food truck, Lillie’s Q Meat Mobile.
Though he has received widespread acclaim for Lillie’s Q as traditional Southern fare, he is looking to break the North’s stereotype of Southern food being only “shrimp and grits and fried chicken” by creating a more “refined and evolutionary” dining experience with Dixie. The menu is currently in the “tastings” phase by McKenna and his team, but McKenna wants to highlight the often overlooked vegetable and seafood side of Southern cuisine: rice, field peas, oysters, catfish, sea bass.
McKenna said that Dixie will evoke the Southern hospitality and warmth he experienced as a kid going to his grandmother’s house in Greenville, South Carolina, through both the menu and the overall aesthetic of the restaurant.
“The Takashi space, when it became available, really spoke to me. We want to transport people back to the atmosphere and the hospitality that Southerners provide in their homes,” McKenna said.
The inside of Dixie will allow diners to eat in a two-floor Southern parlor, with small plates for people to share in a family, communal setting. Dixie’s outside will display a false door facing the street, in an homage to Southern homes, so that diners will need to stroll around the side of the house, along a space inspired by “a beautiful sidewalk in Savannah with trees and other vegetation” to enter the restaurant.
After moseying down the tree-lined path, diners will be able to choose between eating at the front half of Dixie, or enjoying a bourbon cocktail or julep at 1952½, Dixie’s high-end, traditional Southern cocktail bar. Or both.