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Chef Gray McNally on What to Expect at Tortoise Club

When Tortoise Club opens this fall, likely in November just before Thanksgiving, it's hoping to give classic places like RL a run for their money. The restaurant, from owner Keene Addington (former Flat Top Grill CEO) and chef Gray McNally (Spiaggia, Boka), will be on the ground level of the Marina City complex in the former Crunch Gym space. This has allowed the team to really build out from a blank slate and utilize some of the interesting variations in ceiling height.

Tortoise Club will have a "classic Chicago clubhouse feel with dark woods and rich leathers, fabric on the walls and hard wood floors with area rugs," McNally said. The main dining room will seat 140 while the bar and lounge area will hold another 50. Cozy booths flank the outside walls of the room and, in the center of the main dining area, the ceiling will feature beautiful wood work. The private dining area, which will be open when parties aren't booked, is being called the Parlor and features vaulted ceilings and a working fireplace.

While the room will draw with its exclusive high-brow club feeling, with chef McNally's pedigree, the food should provide the stick-around factor. He's working with a number of local purveyors like Nichols, Kinnikinnick, Seedling and Kilgus farms to make the food as fresh as possible, but where the menu is concerned, they're not re-inventing the wheel.

"Nothing on the menu hasn't been done before," he said referring to dishes like Maine lobster roll, Dover sole and steak tartare, "but we'll strive to do that better than everyone else." A dish McNally hopes to make a signature is his pheasant pie, where they'll whole roast pheasant and then shred the meat and make a rich stock out the bones for a gravy before adding in sauteed root vegetables and herbs. This will then go into a whole savory pie baked in a small ceramic dish, so everyone who orders it will get their own little presentation. "Nobody does it anymore because it's a lot of labor and the execution isn't easy," he said. "It's little things like that that will make us stand out."

The restaurant will serve both lunch and dinner and will have other things like oysters and jumbo gulf shrimp on a raw bar; white bean soup; crab toast salad; buckwheat crepes with heirloom squash and mushroom duxelle; pan seared Skuna Bay salmon with lemon herb risotto cake and salsa verde; veal sweetbreads; short rib Bourgignon; lobster Thermidor and more.

While the website is basically a landing page, it does show renderings of the interior and facade of the restaurant to give you an idea of what it'll look like. "We've had a lot of time to source the best ingredients from the best producers and farmers," McNally said. "Starting from scratch is amazing because we're getting to really customize everything to a specific vision."
· Tortoise Club Coming Soon [~EChi~]
· Tortoise Club [website]

Tortoise Club

350 N. State St., Chicago, IL