- Welcome to the Trenchermen
- The host stand? Or an old-time apothecary?
- The bar features many antique pieces, including green glass wine jugs
- The taps will serve beer, wine, sparkling wine and barrel-aged cocktails
- Speciman audio speakers will actually play music
- Overhead lights are fastened to the exposed pipes
- Handcrafted tufted leather banquettes meld with custom walnut chairs and tables
- A series of vintage glass wine jugs hang over the bar
- An antique espresso maker pours filtered still and sparkling water as well as La Colombe's Pure Black
- French blue velvet banquettes brighten up the raised gallery area
- A full view of the main dining room
[Photo: Jason Little]
News first broke back in mid-October that brothers Mike and Patrick Sheerin had partnered up with Matt Eisler and Kevin Heisner (Nightwood, Bangers & Lace) to open a new restaurant in Wicker Park. And now, nearly nine months later, The Trenchermen finally opens its doors as one of the year's most anticipated new restaurants in Chicago.
The Trenchermen took over the former Spring space, which is housed in the circa 1923 Luxor Turkish Bath House. And anyone who remembers that space will be surprised upon walking in at just how different designer Heisner and his business partner, Trevor Fregeau, have made it while staying true to the building's roots. including the original white brick from the bath house.
The changes are evident upon entering through the front door, where guests will be greeted by a host stand that could almost double as an old-time apothecary mixed with a science lab. The design duo opened up the space, built in cabinets around the host stand and filled them up with antique working lamps, bottles, hand sculptures, spools and more. Then they brought in former Time Out Chicago dining editor Heather Shouse (Bottle & Branch) to install eight terrariums to add a touch of nature.
Stepping down into the space via a six-step spiral-inspired staircase, guests walk into the main bar, meant to mimic a European beer hall, with 38 seats at the split-level Japanese-style walnut bar and leather booths for more intimate dining. Numerous vintage green glass wine jugs hover above the bar, cast-iron radiator fronts line the front of the bar, and a mix of found a new wood bar taps will be used to pour wine, sparkling wine, beer and craft cocktails created by beverage director Tona Palomino (wd-50, Sepia).
Heisner said the design inspiration came from a few ideas like the turn of the century, steam punk and the age of invention mixed with refined, modern clean lines. And to keep that old-meets-new feeling, he explained they also acquired a number of other working vintage pieces, like an old espresso machine that will serve as the servers' water station to get both still and sparkling filtered water and have a line exclusively for La Colombe Pure Black iced coffee. Other pieces throughout the space include gorgeous Gramophone-style Specimen Audio speakers that are actually hooked into the restaurant's audio system and will play music.
The 82-seat main dining room harks back to that turn of the century era with cast-iron pipes descending from the ceiling over booths with lights at the ends, worn Persian rugs, custom made walnut chairs and tables set against brown tufted leather banquettes, gorgeous Art Deco-like lights above and a dramatic 400-bottle custom wood wine wall. A raised gallery at the front of the room features French blue velvet banquettes set atop terrazzo-like tiles. Heisner also installed a wheelchair-accessible elevator set behind a sliding wood door just off the host station, which fits perfectly in with the restaurant's aesthetic.
But what would the restaurant be without food? The Sheerin brothers, who worked together years ago at Everest and the now-shuttered Toque before eventually going on to work at the Signature Room (Patrick) and Blackbird (Mike, where he earned a Food & Wine best new chef title), created a progressive American menu to tie in with the design of the space.
"We wanted to make delicious food that was seasonal and technique-driven," Mike said. "The philosophy is that we always wanted to have a boisterous bustling restaurant with refined food." Patrick followed that by saying, "What we talk about with the team is the conviviality of the space, but that food and service had to be built upon a foundation of fine dining service and that food was executed at a high level, even if price point tops out around $25."
The first menu, which is below, features "familiar flavor profiles but in a presentation people aren't accustomed to," Mike said. Diners can expect dishes like black olive and sesame-crusted sea trout with fresh garbanzo bean hummus; slow-smoked Texas brisket with "trencheritos," mustard garganelli and snow peas; scotched quail egg with cauliflower and caviar; scallop with avgolemono, bamboo rice, egg yolk bottarga and asparagus seeds; and, of course, what likely will become a signature: pickle tots.
The menu is accompanied by Palomino's focused bar program with drinks like the Green Hornet (celery gin and tonic), El Viaje (mezcal, pineapple and absinthe) and Jewel-up (corn whiskey, apricot and mint).
The Trenchermen is currently open in soft mode and is accepting limited reservations each night. They'll officially open on July 9.