Chicago proper's first ShopHouse SouthEast Asian Kitchen from Chipotle opens on Dec. 8, bringing the flavors of the orient presented in the familiar fast-casual way. The Loop location at Jackson Boulevard and State Street joins the suburban Schaumburg spot that opened last Friday near Woodfield Mall. Ownership will monitor success at those locations before announcing any future Chicago spots, which they're not yet ready to talk about.
It's a small space at 24 E. Jackson Blvd., with stools by both windows as well as a communal table in the middle that seats 12. There's four additional tables, including a small booth, and they'll have outdoor seating in the alley for warmer months. Don't forget to check out the alley window, filled with adorable fortune cat statuettes, a good-luck symbol in Japan, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. The fountain Coca-Cola machine features Thai writing on the familiar red and white script logo.
The menu above the counter has a format that is again familiar to Chipotle customers. Many of the recipes for curries, noodles and other items came from the spinoff's director of concept development, Tim Wildin's, family. ShopHouse is a personal project for Wildin, whose mother is Thai, and he pitched the idea to Chipotle management while working for the taco and burrito chain. While ShopHouse debuted in 2011 with openings in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area, as well as Los Angeles, Chicago diners are getting an exclusive menu item in fresh spring rolls which seem to be selling well in Schaumburg, Wildin said.