Expect some big changes next year at Gemini Bistro (2075 N. Lincoln Ave.): owner Ryan O’Donnell plans for a soft reboot over the winter, closing shop from January 1 until springtime for a range of updates. Among the most obvious are a new name—from the reopening on, it’ll just be Gemini, sans Bistro—and a new partner—longtime bartender Pauly Graves, who bought into the business this fall.
“We’re not changing the concept at all,” stresses O’Donnell, “just rejuvenating what everybody knows and loves. We feel we owe it to our guests, to our staff, and to ourselves to give this space a makeover.”
Expect a new, larger bar—a horseshoe-shaped number that seats 24—plus new tables, chairs, and lighting handpicked by Kristin Wynne and James Geier of Chicago design studio 555 International. While the interior is getting a major update, don’t expect the Gemini crew to fall prey to any trends. There will, for example, be no communal tables at the new Gemini (“We have to stay true to who we are”). Instead, they’ll focus on “beautiful, comfortable” booths, clamshells, and free-floating tables. Another revelation: a sound-proofed ceiling. “We like high-energy,” says O’Donnell, “but you should be able to hear each other talk at dinner.”
While some classic dishes (steak frites, the Bistro Salad, and the skillet cookie dessert) will almost certainly remain, chef Jon Keeley will be revamping the menu. “Jon’s been here more than two years, but we’ve kept him handcuffed to the dishes he inherited,” says O’Donnell. “This is an opportunity to give him what he’s worked so hard for and what he deserves.” That includes some new kitchen gear—such as a wood-burning grill and a plancha.
Through all the planned changes, O’Donnell says that the focus remains on customers (especially regulars) who made Gemini what it is. “We’ve built such a loyal clientele, we really just want people to come in and feel the same way they did in the past.”