Palatewise and behaviorwise, a lot of kids are not ready to eat at the existing restaurants of Paul Virant, the lifeblood of Vie in Western Springs and the chef/partner/eponym of Perennial Virant. His third, however, which he plans to open before Labor Day, promises an atmosphere as casual as the other two are fancy. “It will be the polar opposite,” he says.
Continuing the V-initial theme, Vistro (112 S. Washington St., Hinsdale, no phone yet) will feed families a broad range of food—Virant calls the menu “pretty open-ended” and then rattles off quesadillas, Thai curry, fried chicken, and meat loaf as possibilities. The wood oven in the back of the room will turn out vegetables, fish, those quesadillas, and probably a margherita or Neapolitan pizza for the pickiest kids. “If there just isn’t anything on the menu that a kid can’t find, they can always fall back on that,” Virant says.
Virant is considering a two-week cycle of family-style menus, evoking the likes of taco nights around the world. For example, “Romaine hearts with green goddess [dressing], and then overlap right into the fried chicken, and then for dessert, a big bowl of soft serve, brownies à la mode, or it could be cookies,” he says. For another example, pulled pork, soft rolls, and mac and cheese might appear.
Showing even more thought for the little squirts, Virant mentions snacks—kale, fried chickpeas, soft pretzels with mustard, and caramelized nuts—and mocktails, such as blueberry aigre doux with egg white, lemon juice, and soda water.
The 80-or-so-seat space, formerly Zak’s Place, won’t have tablecloths and, Virant hopes, will sound lively but not loud. “That’s what we are hoping for—engage the kids,” he says. “But slick enough and beautiful enough for people to have a date or whatever. Not like Fuddruckers.” We have actually always been partial to dates at burger places. Sort of like eating garlic, you can’t smell the french-fry grease on your date when you smell the same.