Zack Sklar and his compatriots at Peas and Carrots Hospitality Group have big plans for Chicago. The Michigan company is targeting a June/July open for Bernie's Lunch & Supper in River North. It's the group's first entry in the Chicago market.
"We have so many talented people in the company that we're kind of outgrowing the marketplace," Sklar said.
Along with partners Josh Humphrey and Jim Bellinson, Sklar also operates Social Kitchen & Bar in Birmingham, Mich. and MEX and Beau's Grillery in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. They're expanding with two more restaurants in Michigan, and don't want to "cannibalize" from their own restaurants in the Mitten State.
Even in Chicago, Bernie's isn't the only project Sklar's involved in, as he revealed that he's the franchise owner for the first Chicago location of Memphis' Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken: "I never thought I would be a franchisee, but the product was too good to pass up," Sklar said.
Getting back to Bernie's, which is named after his 82-year-old grandfather, Sklar wants a versatile establishment for families, dates and business deals. He's hoping to fill a void for residents near his River North spot at the northwest corner of Orleans and Erie streets at 660 N. Orleans St. He called the upcoming rooftop deck "insane" describing it as an ideal place for the post-work crowd to blow off steam. 555 International (Girl & The Goat, GT Fish & Oyster) plans on designing a 7,500-square-foot space with two bars.
Chicago's the "big leagues" as far as Sklar is concerned. Staff will grind meats and bake breads in house for a "rustic Mediterranean" menu. Executive Chef Ryan Sand comes from New York spending time at Café Boulud and most recently with the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. He worked as sous chef and chef de cuisine at Bouchon Bakery. Bernie's will have a wood-fire oven, and Sklar envisions a concise menu that includes lentils with spring beans and swiss chard, beef rib eye with Anna potatoes and red onion conserva, as well as wood-fired young chicken with quinoa tabbouleh.
Sklar said response from the Detroit area has been positive about the expansion, and he'll be traveling back and forth until Bernie's is established. He talked about "upping his game" from Chicago, ensuring they had the funding, right location and right staff.