Matthias Merges and Graham Elliot have been friends for roughly two decades, ever since they worked together at Charlie Trotter's in the late 1990s. Now they're joining forces on a restaurant: Gideon Sweet (841 W. Randolph St.), which opens tomorrow in the West Loop.
The two chefs have been chatting about working together on something for a few years now. "For years I looked up to Matthias in that mentor role," Elliot says. "And as I got further along in my journey, I thought it would be amazing if we could join forces, like, 'Wonder Twin powers, activate!'"
The end result is a restaurant that serves what they're calling "naschen-style" food (naschen is the German word for nibble). Merges says its closest analog is tapas, with lots of small plates meant for sharing, but with a more global perspective rather than a strictly Spanish approach. (Some of the opening dishes include bone marrow croquettes and spider crab with uni butter.)
That same shareable approach carries over to the cocktails, created by Alex Bachman (Billy Sunday). Look out for some small, one-ounce sippers that let diners sample different drinks without getting totally hammered—think a taste of a gin martini with mimolette cheese.
If the address sounds familiar, it's because it was most recently home to Elliot's GEB, which shuttered in 2016 for reconcepting. (Merges also recently closed the doors to his Japanese spot Yusho.) The space includes a back patio in a cobblestone pedestrian alleyway, adjacent to RM Champagne Salon's space.
With two big-name chefs in the kitchen, are Merges and Elliot concerned at all about butting heads? "There will be a lot of arm wrestling," Merges jokes. "When you're younger everything in a kitchen is territorial. But now I understand that that means you cut off possibilities and limit collaboration. Collaborate, and you're able to get something way more interesting."