It’s been less than two years since Riley Huddleston opened the science-lab-esque IO Urban Roofscape at the Godfrey Hotel, and now he's facing a bigger beast at the LondonHouse Hotel (85 E. Wacker Dr., Loop, 312-357-1200), where he’ll serve as exec chef and drink manager when it opens next spring.
For Huddleston, the appointment means a whole lot of riding in elevators. The LondonHouse will have a second-floor bar/lounge that will serve breakfast as well as a multilevel space (working name: LH) on its 21st and 22nd floors, plus a private-dining-only 10-top in its secluded cupola on the 23rd floor. Huddleston envisions all the spaces serving “reimagined American cuisine,” which, in his mind, means pretty much anything. “I don’t like the stigma of American cuisine as recession food,” says the West Coast native, who attended culinary school in the Caribbean and made his name slinging french fries as entrées with sides of burgers in Boise. “Since I can remember, my family has been eating Chinese food. If it's been around for 70-plus years in America, why is that not part of our cuisine?”
As for the actual rooms serving Huddleston’s arms-wide-open Americana, the second-floor lobby will be the most accessible. “I see it as a powerhouse during happy hour,” he says. “A lot more like a suite.” The 21st-floor bar/lounge will seat about 110, and one floor up, an outdoor space will open seasonally. The crow’s nest 10-top sounds nice, too, but the way Huddleston tells it, you probably won’t get in unless you’re elected mayor. “It’s a really special venue at the pinnacle," he says, "to accommodate very special dinners. Ultra luxe.” So there's something to work toward.