In the final days of 2016, one more bright light in Chicago’s culinary scene flickered out for good. Boka Restaurant Group’s Perennial Virant ended its five-and-a-half-year run at the Lincoln Hotel on New Year’s Eve. Chef Paul Virant cites a variety of factors in the closing—including a change in ownership of the hotel—but ultimately calls the decision to close mutual. Boka’s other installations at the Lincoln (Elaine’s Coffee Call and the J. Parker rooftop bar) will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Next up for the space: a collaboration with Ryan See and Dan Warren of the newly formed 90/94 Restaurant Group. Warren is best known for Common Ground, the stately speakeasy that remained buzzy and popular throughout its 10-year tenure in New York’s East Village. Details are scant on what, exactly, the new concept will be, but Boka co-owner Rob Katz told Eater to expect an opening in the spring.
Virant, for his part, is not exactly riding off into the sunset. In addition to the two suburban eateries already under his belt (Vie in Western Springs and Vistro in Hinsdale) Virant has commercial aspirations. By the end of the month, he will officially launch Jar Sessions—a signature line of relishes, preserves, and pickles from his cookbook, The Preservation Kitchen—that he hopes to have on the shelves of Mariano's and Publican Quality Meats this spring. If you just can’t wait for that wide release, per Virant, “We’ve got plenty of them right now at Vie and Vistro.”
While it’s always sad to see a long-running restaurant close, no one here seems worse for wear. Five years old, Virant points out, is practically middle-aged for a restaurant. “Honestly, it’s kind of a relief for me,” he adds, “And I think it is for [Boka] too. It’s a little bit of an opportunity to clean house and trim a little fat.”