Nick Lacasse, the former exec chef of the Drawing Room and a contestant on Around the World in 80 Plates, is ready for his next act. After taking the summer off to travel and evaluate his options, Lacasse has teamed up with Congress Theater owner Eddie Carranza, to open a number of new projects on the property that are currently under development.
The first to open will be a grocery, deli and cafe, likely to be called Rockwell Market, named for the cross street as well as the fact that Congress is a rock venue. It will take over the former will call space just north of the theater's main entrance and will have about 30 to 40 seats, Lacasse said.
Lacasse said they'll be a local grocery where people can come for prepared foods like sausages, hot dogs, housemade bacon, prepared grains, roasted vegetables, soups, salads, sandwiches, produce and more. They may have a section for beer and wine, but whether they'll sell and pour liquor on site, that's up in the air. They're working with Metropolis for a full coffee bar. Rockwell Market will "have a lot of the high-end stuff like fresh wild mushrooms and truffle honey, but we'll also have lower end stuff like baked beans and hot dogs," Lacasse said.
"We want to be a neighborhood grocery," he added. "Everything we're putting in the block is a throwback to what neighborhood people wanted. Of couse we want it to be a destination, but the focus is on the local people." Lacasse said they're going to focus on using and selling Midwestern products, even having a freezer section for local pierogis and the like. He said he's excited to be right next door to the indoor winter farmers market that will be on the property and expanding on his already-solid relationship with local farmers and purveyors.
Future projects in the planning stages include an "old time confectioner and bakery with chocolates, house made candies, toffees" and more, Lacasse said, and a beer-making facility. Lacasse said he's currently looking for a top-notch pastry chef and brewer. Additionally, he said he plans to upgrade the concessions at the Congress during shows and maybe add a local food cart. "The possibilities are limitless and from show to show the demographics change."
Of course, this project ins't without controversy. The re-development was first announced about two months in partnership with Phil Tadros and his company Doejo on board to do the design and build out. That recently fizzled with Tadros saying Carranza broke their contract, but Carranza said he paid Tadros about $270,000 and doesn't know where the money went. Now it looks like Carranza is trying to own all of the businesses, which may also include a gastropub and separate restaurant and bar.
Hopefully things get off the ground because Lacasse sounds pretty excited to be part of the team. So why this and not a traditional restaurant? "I started talking to the Congress team and, of course, I used to toss elbows at punk shows at the Congress," Lacasse said. "I have a fondness for the building and the neighborhood and the unique nature of what they're trying to do over there."
· 3 Chicago Chefs Will Go Around the World in 80 Plates [~EChi~]
· Congress Theater Splits With Development Partner [WBEZ]