After seven years running David Burke’s Primehouse, chef Rick Gresh scratched the septiannual itch and joined up with the launch of Virgin Hotels Chicago (203 N. Wabash Ave., Loop) as the property’s executive chef. While he benefited from his time at the steak house—“I learned a lot, obviously, about beef,” he says, including participating in the launch of the Vegas strip steak, a new cut of beef from the shoulder—he’s looking forward to the breadth of the Virgin job, overseeing no fewer than six separate ways to get food and drink.
- The Commons Club, on the second floor of the hotel, will open first, around mid-January. Gresh says the menu will skew toward local-seasonal small plates, simply prepared. “Nothing will float off your plate,” he says, alluding to molecular gastronomy. He will, however, introduce a curiosity here that’s at least techie food’s black-sheep biker cousin: food tattooed with edible tattoo ink. He cites a spinach tattoo on fish as an example, and he expects a black-truffle tattoo on beef for the winter menu.
- Miss Ricky’s, named for Virgin’s unconventional owner, Richard Branson, will resemble a classic American diner, open 23 hours a day. (Closed which hour, you ask? “We’re still figuring that out,” Gresh says.) The menu will cover pot pies, chicken and waffles, cakes, pies, doughnuts, and a biscuits and gravy riff with a gumbolike andouille-shrimp-okra gravy.
- 203, at street level like Miss Ricky’s, will go from a sandwiches-pastries-juices shop serving Bow Truss coffee by day to a wine bar with cheese and charcuterie by night.
- A rooftop bar will serve izakaya food such as sashimi, sushi, Japanese chicken wings, and the like in indoor and outdoor spaces.
- Gresh will also run catering and events, as well as . . .
- . . . Room service.
Six food operations in total sounds like a lot of long days and late hours for Gresh. But if Virgin ever wants to add a steak house as a seventh, Gresh could probably do that in his sleep.
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