Wine and food enthusiasts in Little Italy and University Village are getting a new hotspot from two of Chicago's top sommeliers. 2013 Jean Banchet best sommelier winner Jason Prah (Acadia) and 2012 nominee Scott Harney (Eno Wine Room) signed a lease yesterday to take over the former Urban Union space and hope to open their first restaurant, Bascule, in mid-September.
The name is a nod to the many bridges on the Chicago River, as well as "bridging careers and bridging cuisines," Prah explains. "I want it to be a Chicago place," he says. "An industry spot, friendly to the neighborhood and the students."
First and foremost, expect an outstanding wine program that focuses on international varieties beginning at affordable price points ($20 a bottle) and topping out at around $100. There will also be a "small but smart" craft cocktail program and a local craft beer list.
On the food side, look for an eclectic mix of small plates, entrees, and snacks utilizing "whatever's seasonal and whatever strikes our fancy," Prah, who finished up at Acadia two Saturdays ago, says. He mentions flatbreads and mussels from a wood-burning oven, as well as charcuterie and cheese plates. They're in the process of securing a chef but declined to release the name yet.
The abrupt shutter of Urban Union, Jason Chan and chef Michael Shrader's short-lived restaurant, is a boon to Prah and Harney. The space is nearly untouched, meaning Bascule will make use of the existing wood-burning oven, wine tap system and communal table.
Although the space will see some decor changes to create more of an "urban feel," don't expect a fancy, expensive buildout for Bascule. "It will be about the steak and not the sizzle," Prah says, meaning the food and drink product will be the focus. They will downsize the seating (Urban Union sat 65) and add some street art of bridge scenes.