After a few years of being barred from opening in Chicago, Roger Greenfield and Restaurants America are back en force. Greenfield sold the Bar Louie chain in 2009 and was subsequently hit with a non-compete clause, blocking him from opening a restaurant within 50 miles of a Bar Louie. With that over, the concepts are flying in. Park Tavern was the first, Grant Taproom and Chica Loca are coming in summer, more are on the way, and Central Standard is soft opening on Friday.
Many of Greenfield's restaurants are conceptually similar. They feature upscale New American menu offerings with contemporary twists and large beer lists, located in the Loop and River North to target the business, tourist, and affluent neighborhood clientele. Central Standard has a large twist, giving new meaning to the term 'locally sourced.' Everything in the place, from menu inspiration to ingredients to decor, is from the Central Standard time zone. The concept encompasses the entire area, from the tip of the Dakotas to the Gulf Coast.
The menu reflects that, it's possible to eat there countless times and try a different culinary theme in each. There's Polish. There's Italian. There's four types of BBQ. There's Cajun. There's Tex-Mex. There's heartland American. Every ingredient and technique is sourced from the area, meaning the fish offerings won't include halibut or salmon, it's all native to lake, river, or Gulf. There's house-made charcuterie, pickled vegetables and fruits, whole suckling pig.
This might sound like a lot for one chef to undertake, and Ryan Wombacher (Landmark, Boka, Topaz) is the man tasked with keeping the concept together. Wombacher can rattle off the research and homework he did to prepare for the expansive idea, including studying the Three Sisters Native American crops. He even named a pierogi dish after it.
The beverage program keeps in line with the idea, with 40 tap offerings from the Central time zone. Wines and cocktails (sazerac, for example) are too. There's two bars, one in an elevated VIP area in rear, the latter sporting bottle service and a separate entrance.
The space is very large, a deep 10,000 square-foot homage to all things central, hugging Wells nearly to the Merchandise Mart. Reclaimed Wisconsin barnwood comprises the bar and sprouts from the walls. On the walls themselves hang paintings, photographs, and assorted decorations that celebrate the middle of the country. Think cornfields, cityscapes, cows, Route 66, girls reclining in bails of hay, and even a map of the time zone in case you weren't sure where it is. Clocks marked "Chicago," "Memphis," and "Dallas" are scattered about, all showing the same time.
Greenfield says the basic idea came to him in the middle of the night, collaborating with Wombacher on specifics, adding decorations from his vast collection in storage in Glenview and picked up around the country. It's part of his rapidly-replenishing stable, look out for more in the coming months.
· All Coverage of Central Standard [~ECHI~]
· Central Standard [Official Site]