There’s a duality theme happening at Smyth & the Loyalist (177 N. Ada St., West Loop, phone TBD)—not just in the name. Charlie Trotter’s/Alinea vets (and husband-and-wife duo) John Shields and Karen Urie Shields are opening two unique restaurants at one address, with upscale Smyth upstairs, and more casual restaurant and bar the Loyalist on the first floor.
The Loyalist will come first, a few weeks before its more formal counterpart, in June. Designed to attract regulars, it’ll be a louder, casual 80-seat restaurant and lounge with a fireplace, plasma TV, booth seating, bar, and small lounge area.
"All these neighborhood bars that people frequent around Chicago—that’s the atmosphere we want downstairs,” John says.
The food from chef de cuisine Mark Bolton (Central Kitchen, San Francisco) will be “familiar but slightly elevated,” with dishes like blood sausage with grilled beets and beer cream, crispy duck wings glazed in hot sauce and chicken liver butter, and—of course—a cheeseburger. “It’s our own blend, but it’s a low-brow burger,” John says. “No sun-dried tomatoes or foie gras. A ‘just give-me-the-burger’ burger.”
For dessert, expect vanilla soft-serve and a selection of cakes from co-owner Karen, who formerly helmed Trotter’s pastry kitchen (where she first met then-sous chef John).
Upstairs, the 40-seat Smyth will feature a choice of 8- or 12- to 14-course tasting menus and reservations through Tock.
The subtle “Japanese minimalist” themed menu will showcase mainly seafood and the 150 varietals of herbs, vegetables, and flowers sourced exclusively from a nearby Bourbonnais farm. Think dishes like aged beets with dried scallops and oysters, new garlic and young almonds with geoduck clam and sweet bread, and poached foie gras and Dungeness crab with scrambled (house-made) kani miso.
With plenty of warm wood accents, exposed beams, and a shared space for the dining room and kitchen, the pair wants the space to evoke “somewhere in between the feel of the city and our home,” John says. “Like white tablecloth dining without the tablecloths [and] without the pretense. The music will be fun, like having a dinner party every night.”
The Shields are returning to Chicago after seven years working elsewhere, including Town House and Riverstead in the Virginia countryside, where their cooking earned national acclaim. Also coming back with them are their—you guessed it—two daughters.