How did Paul Kahan take the news when three of One Off Hospitality’s brightest stars told him they were leaving the nest? Kind of hard. “[I was] not sleeping. Stressing out. Miserable,” says the venerable restaurateur. “I really truly love them. They are family,” he adds. Aww.
The trio Kahan references is that of chefs Erling Wu-Bower (Nico Osteria) and Cosmo Goss (the Publican), and One Off director of strategic operations Joshua Tilden, who have split off to form Underscore Hospitality. Collectively, the men have logged more than 20 years with One Off, and though Kahan says “[losing] these three guys at once was heartbreaking,” turns out they’re not straying too far away. Kahan and One Off’s other principals, Donnie Madia and Terry Alexander, have partnered with Underscore to create the latter’s first concept, Pacific Standard Time (151 W. Erie St., River North).
Wu-Bower acknowledges that he, Goss, and Tilden are lucky to unite with One Off for their maiden voyage, which is slated to open before year’s end: “In many different layers we have [relied on] One Off expertise, One Off know-how, and One Off experience,” he says. “Even the lease itself, we could not have done without them.”
Pacific Standard Time takes over the former Tavernita space, and will bear little resemblance to its predecessor; while Tavernita was broken into two distinct concepts, PST will be united. The group has partnered with esteemed New York City–based Parts and Labor Design to create a light color scheme inspired by One Off’s Blackbird, which has “this very light and welcoming feel and it asks you to come inside,” Wu-Bower says.
He and Goss will cook what they’re labeling “American hearth cuisine” in two ovens to be built on-site in coming weeks. One, an oval-shaped contraption housing its flame in a central trench, will be reserved for hot- and cold-roasted vegetables (which will make up the majority of the menu) and simple proteins. The other, a traditional Italian-style wood-burning oven, will turn out all things bready (flatbreads, focaccias, pitas, and pizzas).
Kahan promises a small-but-mighty beer list and “light, California-inspired” cocktails, but wine will be king. Fittingly, the majority will hail from California, Oregon, and Washington, but expect Italian and French selections as well.
From vibe to pricing, Wu-Bower and company aim for extreme approachability, a One Off mantra. “We want everyone to be able to enjoy dinner with us.” Kahan explains. “The boys have really taken the pill.”