We've read a lot about Next, Grant Achatz's new restaurant opening April 6, that its menu will change every quarter and focus on a different cuisine at a specific period of time. With Aviary, the next-door lounge that will hopefully open April 13, chefs will craft drinks in a kitchen, and utilize an array of custom-made ice. And then there's this mysterious third space, "The Office," that we don't know too much about. Until now.
Eater got a sneak peek (unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures yet) at this uber-exclusive 16-seat basement den and, while most people won't get to see it, everyone will want to hang out there. It's a very masculine-looking space, with a handful of large Oriental carpets, two plush distressed brown leather couches and accompanying chairs, a separate table with four seats, small red wall sconces and an array of eclectic, quirky found art hanging all over the walls (Achatz's favorite is a charcoal-like etching of a statuesque woman resembling Frida Kahlo).
The beautiful custom-built wood back bar can hold 80 bottles (including Heaven Hill's Trybox Series of New Make whiskey and Karlsson's vodka from Sweden; Aviary will be the only place in Chicago to have the latter) and the sound system is state of the art with speakers built into the ceiling with two sound towers on the floor.
Craig Schoettler, who's running the show at Aviary, called the room "the anti Aviary," saying the drinks will pre-date classic cocktails that mostly came about during the Prohibition era. Down here, bartenders will create seasonal cocktails and tinker with different housemade tinctures, bitters, spices and more. The drinks will be based on flavor profiles of various seasonings, and you might be surprised at what you get if you trust your bartender. And yes, in this space, there will be an actual bartender.
The drinks will match the food, which, according to Achatz, will reflect speakeasy-era cuisine: shrimp cocktail; steak tartare; foie gras terrine; caviar by the ounce with homemade potato chips and creme fraiche; and, of course, oysters on the half shell, which will be perfumed with the various housemade tinctures to enhance the experience while enticing many of the senses.
When asked who would gain access to this speakeasy of sorts, Achatz replied, with a sly smile, "whoever we invite." It's a VVIP room, but if the Aviary folks sense you're a true cocktail aficionado who really appreciates what they're doing, they may invite you downstairs for an entirely different experience. Essentially, Achatz said, "we want this to be the most exclusive, sought after room in Chicago." We don't think that'll be too hard to accomplish.
· Achatz Hints Toward Paris 1906 for Next's Opening Menu [~EChi~]
· Grant Achatz Gives Update on Next & Aviary; Late March Now Target Opening [~EChi~]
· All Grant Achatz Coverage on Eater Chicago [~EChi~]