After two successful restaurants under her belt, Owen & Engine's Bo Fowler is no longer worried about being pigeonholed for her Korean heritage and is opening a third spot.
She and cicerone Elliot Beier hope their new, unnamed project will open by late fall in Logan Square. The restaurant will be the sum of two concepts: Fowler's desire to focus on Southeast Asian flavors, and Beier's interest in opening a brew pub. Fowler's shop will feature a rotating variety of dumplings, Vietnamese dishes, thick Chinese noodles and noodle sticks — not just the trendy ramen that's infiltrated Chicago's dining scene. The flavors will be traditional with new twists.
"You're going come in with your friends and get a mean bowl of food," Fowler said. "It's not going to be pretentious. It's going to have big flavor, it's going to be delicious; I'm not going to put out anything that's not delicious."
"Bixi" is only the name of holding company for the brewpub, but is taken from Chinese mythology as a creature with a dragon's head and turtle's body, one of the Dragon King's sons. This will allow Fowler, the force behind Owen & Engine's English pub fare and Fat Willy's Rib Shack, to finally serve the public "food that I like to eat." The result will be a spot at 2515 N. Milwaukee Ave. for patrons to cut loose, perhaps even take advantage of the crowd that will spill out late night from the neighboring The Owl.
Organic, seasonal and sustainable food is a hallmark of her cuisine, and the new project won't be an exception. Beier, the beer mind at O & E, will serve as a partner at the new Southeast Asian-inspired restaurant.
"American beer is piercing Chinese culture," he said, referencing brewpubs like the Boxing Cat in Shanghai and Great Leap Brewing in Beijing.
Establishments like the aforementioned are creative with their brews. Beier sees the new Logan Square brew pub dealing with a lot with Asian ingredients and tea infusions, working with vendors such as Rare Tea Cellars. He envisions 12 to 16 beer handles and eight house beers on tap at all times. Beier says he "want it to be quality from the start" and "knows exactly" how he wants the beer to taste.
For food influences, Fowler mentions Mission Chinese in New York and its Kung Pao Pastrami: "Bold, fiery, aggressive, kind of like me," she adds. The difficulty in finding special ingredients like Thai basil and other herbs will be somewhat offset by a greenhouse above the brewery. There will be two floors, with an apartment for brewers to crash late night, Fowler said. It's not that different from the set up at Owen & Engine, as that building houses a living space for Fowler.
SPACE Architects, which has also designed the Telegraph, Half Acre Tap Room and Benchmark, will design the new space. All in all, there will be about 200 seats, with two private rooms and an all-season atrium with a retractable roof covering the upstairs patio.
For Fowler, this project has a family vibe. She grew up in a home full of foster children from various cultures, including Vietnamese, and wants to feature all types of food. But Fowler's family extends to ensuring talented employees like Beier have a chance to spread their wings. Also expect the new brewery to have some sort of nod to former Owen & Engine and Girl & The Goat pastry chef Todd Kunkleman, who died in 2013.
"I want people to know Todd," Fowler said.