Nathan Sears, late of the Radler (2375 N. Milwaukee Ave., Logan Square), made a big move this fall: he left behind the beer hall, which he created and co-owned with partner Adam Hebert, for a new gig as executive chef of the Wit Hotel (201 N. State St., Loop). Hebert amicably bought out his old partner, and sous chef John Crue has risen to take Sears’s place in the kitchen.
So, why make the leap from a small, independent operation to the kitchen of a downtown hotel? “I have nothing against running a restaurant, or being an owner,” says Sears, “but if someone calls, you have to run to be there. Whatever happens, you’re the one who handles it.”
After a conversation with his wife about work-life balance, Sears decided a change was in order, and an opening at the Wit provided the perfect opportunity. Sears joined sous chef Kevin McMullen (Brixton, Band of Bohemia) on the executive kitchen staff in early October.
In his first month, Sears focused primarily on rejuvenating the street-level State and Lake Chicago Tavern. Hitting the menu this week: an updated mussels dish with kimchi-style fermented green apples, a dash of Moody Tongue’s Applewood Gold beer, and a turmeric-mayo-topped baguette. Sears’s other new creations include a take on the pub-classic chicken platter, with a slow-roasted breast atop black shallot jam and a mini-casserole of confit potatoes and thigh meat on the side. Sears is also considering a few pasta dishes, like a boar Bolognese with black walnuts, and a broccoli risotto for vegetarians. But, tasty as those pastas sound, “there are still a lot of moving parts here.” In short, don’t get too attached.
As for the Wit’s rooftop bar, things are still (dare we say) up in the air. In the coming months, Sears will update both the bar and the hotel’s banquet service. He’s hinted at a drastic change for the Roof, but mum’s the word for now.