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Cleetus Friedman Will Helm New Restaurant at Theater on the Lake

The former Fountainhead chef will be leading the Lakefront, opening late summer—but you can preview the food this weekend.

Charm City crabcake and grits at the Lakefront   Photo: Theater on the Lake

Last summer, Lakefront Hospitality, operators of Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub, won a bid to spearhead the renovation of the Theater on the Lake. One year and $5.9 million later, the Theater is on the cusp of reopening for year-round performances, events, a comprehensive food program run by (drumroll, please) Cleetus Friedman, of City Provisions and Fountainhead fame. The crown jewel of this waterside endeavor will be a 125-seat Midwestern restaurant called, aptly, the Lakefront.

The Lakefront will not have a retail area in the vein of City Provisions or Fountainhead Market, but it will, we’re hoping, give Friedman a chance to do what he does best: connect with people through his food. Here, that translates to a culinary program that extends beyond the ritzy glass walls of the redeveloped Theater. Friedman has big plans for the adjacent lawn, too, which the Lakefront will have access to as a part of its development deal with the City. He hopes to host some private dinners, “kind of like my farm dinner series I used to do at City Provisions, but without the 12-hour time commitment and bus ride.”

On the more casual end of the spectrum, Friedman will populate his little stretch of lakefront (from Fullerton to Diversey) with food carts and the occasional beer festival. For those raring to enjoy Friedman’s food al fresco, the Lakefront is previewing its concessions carts this weekend, with hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, and tacos for all your Memorial Day cravings.

As for the menu proper, expect a mix of Friedman’s greatest hits—like chicken-fried chicken and whiskey bacon—alongside new concepts. “I’m itching to change it up and do some different things,” says Friedman, like buffalo falafel with smoked garbanzo beans and a salad-centric reinvention of his signature smoked hummus.

Friedman is equally pumped about the event potential of the theater’s space. If you’ve ever dreamed of tying the knot with a custom Cleetus Friedman menu, your chance is finally here: The building’s new design is modular, and can be broken down into a variety of arrangements. Parties can buy out one area of the building, or the whole shebang, for galas, private dinners, and weddings.

Friedman’s excitement is palpable—“It’s a perfect fit, everything I’ve done in my career under one roof!”—but he’ll have to hold his horses for now: The Lakefront, and the Theater by the Lake, will officially open for dinner in the late summer, with brunch coming sometime after that.

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