Driving down Ashland the other day, we saw a temporary sign go up in front of a newly rehabbed space. Looks like Centro Chicago is taking over where Cy's Crab House left off and is close to opening. We popped in to see what was going on, but no one was around. That didn't stop us from snapping a few pictures and taking some notes of the nearly finished space.
We since got in touch with owner Jeff Vasilas (who also is a partner at King Crab and owned Plush in the West Loop), who said he'll open this "global appetizer lounge" the week of May 23. Vasilas spent nearly half a year in Greece and traveling throughout Europe to gain inspiration for the menu, which will feature about 50 types of appetizers from about 30 different countries.
The plates, which will range between $7 and $12, will be larger than tapas, but smaller than entrees. Chef Scott Donaldson (May Street Market) created an international menu with items like falafel, Indian salad, Jamaican jerk chicken, tacos, tamales, arancini, salt cod croquettes, ropa vieja, shrimp and grits and more.
Centro will have a quarter-pound burger; a one-pound burger stuffed with gouda and bacon; and a whopping four-pound burger that the chef will come out and cut for you with a pizza cutter. Centro will feature approximately 30 martinis, all created by Vasilas, and will have all fresh ingredients and pureed fruit.
The 250-seat, 8,000 square-foot space has a modern yet rustic vibe. A large shale wall greets you as you come in through the front door and will be turned into a waterfall sometime after the opening. Dark Brazilian wood paneling and hardwood floors run throughout the space, which also has exposed brick and duct work. Large drum lights hang from the ceiling and a number of flat-screen TVs hang over the wrap-around wood bar.
The restaurant has two large rooms with leather banquettes and booths, tables and high-top seating near the bar. Centro has an adjacent parking lot (as well as one across the street) and will offer free parking for 60 cars. Large doors will open on to the side lot and the front patio, which is covered by brown awnings facing out onto Ashland. The patio will wrap around to the south side of the building for a total of about 100 seats. Centro will be open every night for dinner as well as brunch on Sunday, so it's like you can visit a different country every day.