With the individuality of its concepts, One Off Hospitality lives up to its name. There’s small-plates pioneer Avec, meaty paradise Publican, honky-tonk taco joint Big Star, and in mid-September, retro Mexican diner Dove’s Luncheonette (1545 N. Damen Ave., no phone yet).
The menu at Dove’s is Dove by way of Lonesome Dove. Mexican-focused with dashes of soul, Southern, and Tex-Mex, Dove’s food will include 10 to 12 main courses such as pozole, enchiladas, seviches, and vegetable sides. “Diner food is usually heavier,” says Dennis Bernard, the chef de cuisine. “[Here,] you don’t have to walk out feeling like you ate too much.”
Also on offer will be a dish of boneless chicken thigh, pounded and brined an hour in citrus and herbs. The chicken then gets dredged in buttermilk and seasoned flour and fried to order. They’re calling this “chicken-fried chicken.”
Dove’s seats 42, all at the counter, in an eclectically decorated wood-paneled room with a jukebox of 1950s through 1970s Chicago soul and blues. “Bartenders right at the counter,” Bernard says. “Everybody kind of eye level. Hopefully a lot of smiling faces.”
The place pays homage to a Wicker Park of at least two identities ago, pre-cool-parents and pre-pierced-hipster, the rough-edged ethnic neighborhood of Nelson Algren, whose novel A Walk on the Wild Side featured a character named Dove. Busy Bee, a diner that was right across Damen Avenue, and Leo’s Lunchroom, which was a Division Street mainstay, served as inspiration.
Incidentally, A Walk on the Wild Side is also the source of the oft-quoted “Never eat at a place called Mom’s,” which surely eliminated one possible name from the list.