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Oak + Char Could Be Coming to River North Any Day Now

The former home of Graham Elliot the restaurant will become a more affordable, neighborhood-friendly spot with some cheffy touches—pretzel spaetzle, anyone?

MSG wings at Oak + Char.   Photo: Courtesy of Oak + Char

With plans to open any day now, Oak + Char (217 W. Huron St., 312-643-2427) will occupy the 150-seat converted-warehouse space vacated by Graham Elliot the restaurant. Graham Elliot the chef puts us in mind of deconstructing, so let’s break down the new place’s name:

  • Oak. “Most everything from the bar will have touched oak in some way,” says Art Mendoza, a partner, citing rum, whiskey, and tequila. “It’s a unifying factor. We use whiskey as a starting point for the bar.”
  • Plus. Taking after Owen + Alchemy and its neighbors Municipal Bar + Dining Co. and Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar, Oak + Char may be riding a typographic trend. Are pluses the new ampersands?
  • Char. Mendoza says they will uncover wood and brick in the walls and use a cement floor. “We want it to look old, as if it’s been here a long time, which the building has [been], and as though the place had been through a fire,” he says.

Chef Joe Heppe (Vermilion, Mercat a la Planxa, Untitled) devised the menu. “I like to eat food that you don’t get bored of halfway through,” Heppe says. He figures that food he likes will please others, as well. “We want to appeal to the neighborhood.” A check should average $32 to $36 per person, with two courses and a drink.

Snacks include naan made in an in-house tandoor with wood-smoked eggplant and charred burrata. Entrées, rye-aged duck breast with pears, parsnips, and duck-liver vinaigrette, and fjord trout with braised radishes, greens, and an almond aillade (a mix of almonds, olive oil, and orange zest). Appetizers, goat strozzapreti with pistachio gremolata and mint ricotta, and (eventually) kielbasa, Brussels sprout kraut, and pretzel spaetzle.

How have we never seen pretzel spaetzle before? This is like wheels on a suitcase.

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