Imagine a restaurant where the menu's headlined by beer brewed in house, with the beer dictating what diners order. That's part of the concept at Band of Bohemia, a restaurant and brewery project coming in the fall in Ravenswood from a pair of Alinea alums. There's plenty of dust, but construction's about half way complete at the former warehouse, with partners Craig Sindelar and Michael Carroll holding high hopes for their fine dining meets brewery establishment.
"As far as really upscale brewpubs, you don't see it too often, in Chicago I haven't seen anything like this right now — to get a really nice glass of wine in nice glasses, to get really unique beers, upscale food and service all in one spot," Sindelar said.
Sindelar and Carroll have been tossing this idea around for years, and they don't want anything left as an afterthought. They've carefully picked out the flatware and glassware. Band of Bohemia, well, banded, in 2011 when they first became a company. There have been delays, but the two hope for a fall opening for their ambitious project at the 6,000-square-foot space at 4710 N. Ravenswood Ave. That's just off Lawrence Avenue near a new Metra station. The two meet nine years ago at Alinea, with Sindelar on the opening team at Grant Achatz's renown Lincoln Park restaurant. Carroll worked as a baker at Alinea before leaving to learn the brewing arts at Half Acre Brewing Co. He concocted the concept and shared the idea with Sindelar, Alinea's head sommelier.
"It was something simple, really easy, something other than what's considered typical of a brewpub; it wasn't fried chicken, it wasn't burgers, it wasn't something like that," Carroll said. "It was normal European-style food with a European-style beer. [The idea] kind of spawned from that and, well, we could do more with that and actually kind of evolve into something different."
Though the duo is dubbing their project as a "culinary brewhouse," they're aren't the only ones pursuing such a concept. Rick Bayless (Cruz Blanca) and Bo Fowler (unnamed Logan Square brewpub) have upcoming restaurants.
While they aren't quite yet to announce their hire for executive chef, the duo have a vision for the menu. Carroll is brewing low-alcohol sessional beers including a house beer that he says has the flexibility to pair with any dish. Two other varieties include a lemon, lavender and cardamom wheat, plus a roasted beet and thyme rye. Pours will cost $6 to $8 each. They're toying around with eventually offering growlers to go, but for now their beer will only be enjoyed on premises. Carroll and Half Acre were also involved in brewing beer for Next Restaurant's menu, including the beer for the restaurant's Thai menu.
The beer, like the food, will rotate seasonally, and there's a unique menu. Each beer would be listed separately followed by three to five food items that would pair well with the drink. Wine won't be left out, as Sindelar will also offer wine pairings: "You could do one of two things: You could go by food and see something that you find tempting and then the beer would automatically pair with that. Or if you don't want to have to think about it [you can say] 'I want to drink this tonight, what do you recommend with that?'"
They're not planning on holding reservations, opting for first come, first serve with the 110 seats inside. Inside offers different seating areas that give diners and drinkers different experiences, blending fine dining and a neighborhood restaurant. Crews are building two bars inside. There's the main bar and a kitchen bar where customers can catch a glimpse at the restaurant's open kitchen. There will be no televisions inside, as they're going for a classic, funky vibe. Chandeliers will hang from the 20-foot tall ceilings, and chairs will be lined with a red, paisley fabric. They're trying to break the mold of a typical brewpub. Those are the kind that are more sports-oriented and draw younger crowds. While there's no outdoor seating, large windows will slide open off Ravenswood, giving a few tables a healthy breeze.
As for the name? Coincidentally, Sindelar is of Bohemian heritage. But it was Carroll who came up with it while recalling 1920s Paris: "Bohemians are people who travel and do different things, and are adventurous and taste different things, they look at the world slightly different, dare I say."