Following the departure of chef Marianne Sundquist in January, In Fine Spirits started a rehab project to its wine bar. First, they changed the facade, moving the door to a more customer-accessible spot on the north end of the building. Then co-owner Johnnie Grozenski told Eater they would turn the upstairs private room into a lounge for additional seating.
Now, Grozenski and his partners, Paul Hasenwinkel and Shane & Jill Kissack, have announced they'll close In Fine Spirits on March 18 to further rehab the space and re-open as Premise sometime in April. Former Graham Elliot chef Brian Runge, who left the River North restaurant in January to be around for the birth of his son, has already created new menus for dinner and brunch, as well as bar snacks.
With Runge coming on board, Premise will become more of an actual restaurant versus the wine bar with small plates that In Fine Spirits currently is. The food is being described as a modernist approach to the culinary classics with Asian influences—so not too far off from the food Runge prepared at Graham Elliot. And with the menu change, the pricing will increase from a current check average of about $35 a person to around $50, but the menu will feature larger plates.
Some examples of Runge's new menu items include appetizers like fluke tartare with uni sabayon, toasted nori and sea beans; fava agnolotti with country ham, morel mushroom, wood sorrel and ramp ragout; and tempura sweetbreads with black bean, micro shiso and bok choy. Entrees include Alaskan cod with jackknife clam, leek fondu, fiddlehead fern and potato confit; Jadori chicken with white asparagus, milk puree, baby turnip and malted barley; and spring lamb with puffed quinoa, baby zucchini and greek yogurt.
Brunch will feature housemade granola; seasonal scones; French eggs with grilled bacon; and coddled eggs with duck-fat biscuits and sweetbread gravy. Bar snacks will comprise things like foie-stuffed pretzels; charcuterie and cheese; and pickled farm egg with mustard caviar.
As far as the look, the bar downstairs will more or less stay the same and people will be able to order drinks and bites there. The current taller banquettes and high-tops will go away and be replaced with regular-height tables to seat about 50. And they'll add OpenTable so people can make a reservation. The patio out back won't change, but at this point the owners are thinking it will be reserved for drinks and snacks and not regular dinner service.
The upstairs, which is being called the Salon at Premise, has already been made into a darker, cozier lounge (they're describing it as a "whiskey baron's lair") with dark green paint and charcoal accents; mismatched furniture and leather couches and chairs. The back part of the Salon will feature a private room with a 10-person king's table that will be available only for large groups seeking out a multi-course tasting menu with beverage pairings.
So after so many years, why the change now when it seems In Fine Spirits was doing just fine? People never thought of IFS as a restaurant and the owners always wanted to have it be that way. Now with the addition of Runge, they feel they can make the change. Let's hope they retain that same charm people have come to love IFS for.
· In Fine Spirits Adding Second Level Lounge to Wine Bar [~EChi~]
· Brian Runge Out, Andrew Brochu In as Exec Chef at Graham Elliot [~EChi~]