When the chef Paul Wildermuth died unexpectedly on November 13th at the age of 46, he was part of a team working to open a new restaurant in the South Loop called Tribute (Essex Inn, 800 S. Michigan Ave.; no phone yet). “He was the backbone of the project,” says Simon Lamb, one of Tribute’s partners. “Right in the midst, as the lease was being signed, and everything was getting worked out, Paul passed away. We took a hiatus and regrouped to decide whether to go forward with it. But now we are moving forward.” The menu will feature upscale American comfort food for breakfast/brunch, lunch, and dinner, with reasonable-size portions. The 199-seat restaurant will focus on local, sustainable, and organic, to match the Green Seal certification of the hotel. Further details haven’t been determined, because the partners have yet to pick a chef to replace Wildermuth, who worked the kitchens of Gioco, Marché, Red Light, and most notably, Opera. “There are still half a dozen in the mix, but we will get that worked out in the next couple of weeks,” Lamb says.
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