Villains Chicago has finally returned to the South Loop, but it's not the same burger joint regulars frequented before it closed in 2012. There's no longer a focus on burgers, as diners will find a diverse menu inside a dining room that offers more of an upscale tone compared to Villains' roots as a dive.
"It's not the old Villains," said chef Dennis Stover. "We don't have wings or quesadillas, there's only one burger on the menu."
Stover had nothing to do with the original Villains, but he brings experience working at Vie, The Publican and Big Star. Villains enjoyed a stealth opening on Friday at 730 S. Clark St. Stover's been on board since last year, as ownership closed the deal on the restaurant space then. There had been delays, including ones with liquor licenses, but after three years, Villains is ready to go, and staff is excited. Opening night made Stover "shake like a leaf."
"I think the neighborhood needs a place like this," Stover said. "I think having this chef-driven, beer-focused, Randolph Street place here in the neighborhood, there's really not anything like this in the South Loop."
Ownership tweaked the name by dropping the "Bar & Grill" portion and replacing it with "Chicago" as a sign of the rebirth while capitalizing on past branding. Holly Grosso is now the owner, but Marco Silvo, Villains' original owner, is still around. But there's a big desire to distance the place from Villains' first iteration.
Stover is excited about the chicken gizzards with charred ramps, rhubarb agrodolce and piloncillo butter. Regulars can still find a Slagel Farms burger with bacon, Hook's four-year cheddar, B&B pickles, smoked red onion and beef-fat mayo. Stover said he's likely add a pork chop in the future.
The common thread between the old and new locations is craft beer, as Stover plans on hosting beer-pairing dinners in the future. For example, right now Villains has 40 different kinds of Mikkeller, the Danish beer. Villains employees collaborate to determine what beers are on tap. There's also six craft cocktails on the menu.
Villains is so far only open for dinner seven days a week, with the bar opening at 4 p.m. Stover hopes to add a weekend brunch. Check out the menu below: