Inside Hota

Not long ago, the word “reconcepting” was a punch line in the restaurant industry, a bit of shorthand for struggling establishments desperate to recapture their faded glory. But with all the upscale spots going belly-up these days, we’re just relieved when a big-name place announces a transformation rather than a death. In the coming months, Seasons (Four Seasons Hotel, 120 E. Delaware Pl.) becomes Allium, a farm-to-table American concept; Carlos’ (429 Temple Ave., Highland Park) downshifts into the clubby and casual Nieto’s; Prasino in St. Charles (51 S. First St.) goes the gastropub route with Wild Monk; Jacky’s on Prairie (2545 Prairie Ave., Evanston) becomes hyperglobal Hota; and One Sixtyblue (1400 W. Randolph St.) joins forces with Bill Kim of Belly fame to reemerge as Belly Q Chicago. Even Cyrano’s Bistrot & Wine Bar (546 N. Wells St.), for 16 years the very definition of consistency in River North, finally ditches the straight-up bistro thing it perfected in favor of the rustic, Grandma’s-recipes Cyrano’s Farm Kitchen. (Which sounds like the old Cyrano’s, just without the rooster bric-a-brac.)

What does all this mean? Apart from the obvious conclusion that restaurateurs are doing whatever they can to make it right now—Seasons chef Kevin Hickey promises homemade hot dogs and “a really kick-ass burger”—it also means lower prices and hopefully a broader audience for veterans who deserve it. “I am turning 50,” says Didier Durand, Cyrano’s chef/owner, “so I cannot goof it up.”



Photograph: Anna Knott