Last April, Crofton on Wells shuttered after nearly 15 years in business and shortly thereafter, the restaurant went up for sale. The vacancy didn't last long because a team has come together and will open Community sometime this winter.
Community is being opened by Jason Felsenthal, a seven-year vet of Rockit Ranch Productions, and business partner Seth Wenig, a financial advisor. The team has tapped former David Burke exec sous chef Frank Whittaker, who has also competed on Ted Allen's Chopped, to be executive chef.
The three-floor project, which will be a restaurant, bar and speakeasy-type lounge, is hoping to set itself apart by teaming each month with a different charity or organization to help spread the word on these groups. Felsenthal said they're still determining what groups they'll work with, but will let the groups utilize the space however they want during their month. So for example, if they work with Toys for Tots, they can do toy drives; or can donate each day's leftover food to Greater Chicago Food Depository.
"We really want them to market and promote within the space for the whole month, including our social media, check presenters, TVs, etc.," Felsenthal said. "This also makes us both feel good. We love giving charity and we both love Chicago; we're both from here. It takes stuff we love the most and morphs it together."
Community will be split into three levels with about 2,200 square feet on each floor. The warmly decorated restaurant, on the first floor, will feature an American scratch menu. Whittaker's menu is still under development, but some items will include mini puff Kobe beef dogs with whole grain mustard; organic vegetable calzone, squash, shiitake mushrooms, goat cheese and truffle oil; Community perogies with fire cracker apple sauce; Red Bull-marinated drummetes and wings with a house made sweet and sour sauce; and Brussels sprout chips, Neuske bacon and pearl olives.
Felsenthal added the menu will focus on share plates, both small and large, and will have a cocktail pairing program. He said prices will be comparable to other River North spots and they'll be open for lunch, brunch, dinner and happy hour to cater to the neighboring businesses.
A larger more modern bar will grace the second floor while a speakeasy-type lounge will open about four to six months after the rest of the project. So, like people back in the 1920s and '30s would gather in speakeasies and bars, Community hopes to be a central meeting place for today's, well, community.
· Is Crofton on Wells Closed Just Tonight ... or For Good? [~EChi~]
[Photo: Chef Frank Whittaker]