When he broke hearts by leaving the now-closed Nightwood in 2014, we knew James Beard Awards’ “Best Chef: Great Lakes” semifinalist/Food & Wine “Best New Chef” winner/kickass restaurant guy Jason Vincent would be back—and that his resurfacing would be giant news. Well, it’s all happening, and both the news and the restaurant are, in fact, Giant (3209 W. Armitage Ave., Logan Square).
“Coming back was never not the plan,” says Vincent, who adds that a two-year hiatus gave him a fresh perspective on the restaurant biz. For Giant, he’s assembled a dream team, partnering and co-cheffing with Nightwood and Lula alum Ben Lustbader and tapping front-of-the-house Avec veteran Josh Perlman as a third partner.
The trio will open a non-giant, 1,400-square-foot, 40-seater between Sink|Swim and Scofflaw, and will serve locally sourced (whenever possible) American fare. Dishes will be listed from small to large, and guests will hold onto the menu during dinner so they can order what they want when they want it. “We don’t want the waiter telling people how the friggin’ chef wants you to eat,” Vincent says. How friggin’ refreshing.
“We are not going to do weird food,” he promises. One thing they will do: Sticky, beer-battered onion rings covered in a mayonnaise-y, smoky crab salad.
Wondering if you’ll get to eat your old Nightwood favorites again? “I’m not planning on it,” says Vincent. “But if we end up with a pile of pig ears, since I know how to make them really well after five years at Nightwood, why not?”
Desserts—such as a microwaved cake-batter-in-a-mug concoction with layers of hot fudge, cherry sauce, and caramel—will be conceived by a consulting pastry chef, whose identity Vincent is keeping under wraps for the moment.
Drink-wise, there will be Old and New World wines curated by Perlman, plus a small selection of house cocktails (leaving the elaborate bar menus to Scofflaw next door).
The Giant team cites Animal in Los Angeles as an inspiration for their menu which, says Vincent, simply “reads like food.” Beyond that, Vincent seems to have followed the “Mother knows best” mantra with his order-as-you-want approach: “My mom always ordered four things from the top of the menu, and was happy with her meal,” he says.