No doubt the opulent cocktails at Apogee—from its bong-shaped glassware to edible butterfly garnishes—have invaded your Instagram feed in recent weeks. The time has come to unveil what the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group has up its sleeve for its remaining two concepts at the Dana Hotel (660 N. State St., River North).
As with Apogee, the key players in the new spots are beverage director Benjamin Schiller; chef/partner Nate Henssler; partner John Aldape; and founding partners Scott Weiner and Greg Mohr. Here’s what the team plans to debut mid-summer.
Portsmith, the Contemporary Seafood Restaurant
Henssler is originally from New Hampshire, but has cooked in New Zealand, India, Las Vegas, and San Francisco (with Michael Mina). “It always comes back to seafood. That’s what I like to eat,” says the chef, who started at the group’s West Town spot Homestead last August with the intent of moving to the Dana.
Portsmith, the ground-level spot, will serve breakfast and dinner (lunch will debut at a later date). Henssler will draw influence from his travels, flying in featured seafood thrice weekly, with a menu including oysters, fried fish and waffles, and snapper. “Our fish will be as fresh as it’s going to get,” he promises.
Aldape describes the wines as “porch pounders,” explaining that the easy-drinking selections are “what Dad might drink after mowing the lawn.” Beers will skew light and drinkable.
Leviathan, the Dark, Mystical Bar
If you think Schiller outdid himself with Apogee’s unconventional cocktails, wait 'til you see Leviathan's menu. Inspired by a series of lithographs by French artist Gustave Doré, both the design and cocktails stick to—wait for it—a monster theme. To enter the second-floor haunt, guests will ascend a staircase designed to resemble the esophagus of a monster sea animal.
Once inside the belly of the beast, expect around a dozen cocktails, including the namesake Leviathan: gin, rum, ginger, bonito flakes, sesame, and a strong citrus lime kicker. Those bonito flakes? Schiller threw them in to complement Portsmith’s offerings. “I start with a name or purpose and work backwards,” Schiller explains. “Leviathan is very much a tangent of Portsmith. I will use a lot of rum and gin, which are evocative of the sea.”