The Northman (4337 N. Lincoln Ave., North Center), a cider-focused bistro and pub from the owners of Fountainhead, has appeared on “coming soon” lists for nearly two years, creating some serious anticipation for its 100-plus cider offerings. This week, not only did ownership announce an official (we hope!) opening date of March 8, it also dropped the bombshell that the restaurant group’s beloved executive chef, Cleetus Friedman, has decided to depart in pursuit of another project.

Friedman’s successor has a big apron to fill, and Sean Sanders, a five-time recipient of Michelin’s Bib Gourmand designation, is clearly up to the challenge. Sanders, who spent the past six years as the owner and executive chef at Browntrout (which recently closed), used the words “blessed,” “excited (times three),” “ecstatic,” “great opportunity,” and “fantastic” to describe his feelings about the new gig, which will put him in charge of the kitchens at Fountainhead, Fountainhead Market, and the Northman at the end of the month. You have to believe the guy is serious.

Aside from laying all those emotions on us, Sanders offers a small sampling of what you’ll dine on at the Northman, which launches dinner on March 8 and lunch on March 15. Beyond the extensive cheese program Chicago learned of last month, Sanders is working on fish and British-style chips, pasties, escargots, and a curry dish—all created with cider in mind. “Hopefully by doing a concept like this, we’ll show people that cider is just as special as beer,” Sanders says. “It’s fun to think about food in a vein of cider and not just beer all the time,” he adds.

As much as we have enjoyed learning about the Northman, we’re ready for a little less reporting and a little more eating and cider-drinking. Nineteen days and counting…