With all the excitement surrounding the opening of Grahamwich, Graham Elliot's long-awaited upscale sandwich shop in River North, it's not surprising the MasterChef judge wants to quickly expand. He's planning to open two more Chicago locations, likely in the Loop and the Wicker Park/Bucktown area. Even more exciting, Elliot said the plans for Grahamburger are in the works, and that he'll start work on opening that, likely in the Loop, toward the end of 2011. Overseeing it all? Merlin Verrier, who was just named the executive chef of Elliot's company, Primary Hospitality Group, which includes his namesake restaurant.
While the Grahamwich menu is all about eclectic gourmet sandwiches, salads, popcorn and soft serve, Grahamburger will focus on burgers, hot dogs, side dishes and "adult" milkshakes, which will give people the option of having a shot of booze added to the ice cream treat.
But if you missed the news yesterday, Eater Chicago got a sneak peek at Grahamwich and a personal video tour by Elliot himself. While the space is only 1,000 square feet, it took some time for the the shop to open; Elliot said that since it's in a historic building (it's part of the Tree Studios building) that they had to preserve the integrity of the space.
Now that it's open, you can go for Metropolis coffee and Fritz Pastry pastries from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., at which time they'll start selling sandwiches and other menu offerings until closing, which looks like 10 p.m. during the week and possibly midnight on weekends. Sandwiches, which range from banh mi and pastrami reubens to gourmet grilled cheese and tofu veggie wraps, come on a variety of breads made by Gabby's, Red Hen and Labriola bakeries. Be sure to bring cash; Grahamwich is not accepting credit cards.
You can take your food to go or find a spot at the 18-seat communal table made from reclaimed wood. In the summer, Grahamwich will set up some seats, possibly a picnic table, out back in the Tree Studios courtyard. There are two chalkboards in the space: one hangs above the communal table indicating what vegetables are used in the pickled sides; the other surrounds the entire interior of the bathroom and guests are encouraged to leave notes and pictures (CelebTV host Kelli Zink and Perennial chef Ryan Poli left their mark on Tuesday). Elliot said at the end of each week they'll select the best bathroom art and possibly reward the artist somehow.
As for the expansion plans, Elliot said he's also thinking about opening another more upscale restaurant, but in Los Angeles. It'll lean more toward what he does at Graham Elliot, but he said he'll likely keep Chicago as his home base. And he wants to expand to Washington D.C. and Austin, but LA is first. Whatever happens next, we're just excited Grahamwich finally opened.
· Sneak Peek Video of Grahamwich, Officially Opening Wednesday [~EChi~]
· Grahamwich Menu Revealed, Get Ready to Pig Out [~EChi~]
· All Graham Elliot Coverage on Eater Chicago [~EChi~]