A vet of Charlie Trotter's is launching a wine bar to Ravenswood in late-June and he's bringing an alumnus of Homaro Cantu's kitchens with him. Darren McGraw, a former head pastry chef at Trotter's, has targeted Friday, June 26 to unveil his ten-years-in-the-making Ampersand Wine Bar, as long as construction and inspections go his way.
Heading up his kitchen will be former iNG executive chef Tim Havidic, who Cantu personally recommended for the job. McGraw states that Cantu, responding to an e-mail to industry friends for chef suggestions, replied with the following, "Tim would kill it for you."
McGraw, who has also spent time working in the restaurants of Wolfgang Puck, Michael Mina, Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel, says his goals for Ampersand are to "serve approachable wines (priced between $6 and $12 per glass) , rustic comfort foods and damn good desserts." He also hopes to "know our customers by name" and "to remember their tastes" stating that Ravenswood is "perfect for that."
Havidic's menu is shooting to be "refined," "modern" as well as comforting with dishes like Lyonnaise salad with frisee and hen egg, scallop with sweet peas and pickled ramp and beef shank with cauliflower and chile. Desserts in the planning include chocolate with brioche and raspberry, along with strawberry short cake.
The space intends to seat 16 at the bar, and up to 24 at five small and two larger tables. McGraw is looking to get a sidewalk permit for another potential 16 outside: "Chicagoans deserve to sip a sparkling pinot outside after huddling up inside all winter."
And McGraw is succinct when asked if he is at all worried about any possible confusion with that other Ampersand in Chicago (the pop-up space inside River North's Kinmont): "Nope."
See what McGraw's Ampersand Wine Bar has to offer when it opens late-June in Ravenswood.