Just a few months after swinging open the heavy steel doors at Hubbard Inn, the team behind the Hemingway-inspired River North restaurant is busy at work on a new project, but this time they're heading a little bit north.
Barn & Company Public Hall and Smoke House will debut in late July/early August in the former Grand Central space in Lincoln Park. Hubbard Inn exec chef Bob Zrenner has teamed up with pitmaster Calvin Woods (Smokin' Woody's; Calvin's BBQ) to create a menu highlighting the best of Memphis-, Kansas City- and Texas-style barbecue.
"Professionally, I'm going into unchartered water, but personally I have been barbecuing since I was 14," Zrenner, who has a smoker in his own backyard, said. "I have great respect for the tradition of barbecue and pitmasters."
The kitchen will revolve around an applewood-fired smoker and Argentinean-style open-fire grills. Zrenner and Woods will primarily focus on babyback and St. Louis-style ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, free-range chicken and Texas sausage, and will make all their rubs and sauces in house. The menu will also have all-natural burgers, chicken sandwiches, Baja-style tacos, smoked oyster po'boy BLTs, salads and more. Barn & Company will feature a kids menu with things like grilled cheese, mac 'n' cheese and mini corn dogs and burgers.
Beyond the food, the guys behind Hubbard Inn—Daniel Alonso, Adolfo Garcia and David Mitria—are building a space that melds modern design, high-end technology and reclaimed materials to create a unique venue that focuses on BBQ while catering to the neighborhood's penchant for sports.
"Imagine Hubbard Inn with barn style and a sports-bar feeling," Mitria said. That somewhat disparate aesthetic will come together with reclaimed wood walls from a barn in North Carolina, revamped rusted tin ceilings and warehouse barn lighting juxtaposed against cement floors and bar top and some high-end technology. One wall will feature 12 42-inch flat-screen TVs where a variety of games and non-sports programs can play simultaneously. Additionally, eight to 10 of the booths will have individual touch-screens to watch TV and connect to the Internet.
The bar program will have a large selection of American craft beers, bourbon and rye drinks and a number of spiked sweet tea drinks.
A main attraction of the 100-seat restaurant will be the off-street courtyard that will add an additional 75 seats. The courtyard will likely feature ivy on the west wall, have a low ranch-like wood fence along the street and be used on the weekend to create a tailgate-like atmosphere. Zrenner and Woods will have whole-roasted hogs on a spit and games will play on the TVs. "We want it to be a full-on experience like you're going to the game," Mitria said. Come winter, the crew hopes to enclose the courtyard with a retractable roof, but that is still under discussion.
Once it opens, Barn & Company (773-832-4000) will serve lunch and dinner everyday, but Tuesdays when it'll be closed.