That blossoming intersection in Humboldt Park is getting close to adding a restaurant and market from a group helmed by one of Chicago's top up-and-coming chefs. Former Rootstock chef Mike Simmons is leading a concept in the former Knockbox Cafe space at 1001 N. California, on the northeast corner of the Augusta intersection that also includes the recent openings of Haywood Tavern, Spinning J Bakery and Soda Fountain, Brendan Sodikoff's C.C. Ferns Coffee Shop next to the California Clipper, and another planned Sodikoff spot.
Simmons, along with his wife Valerie Szafranski who will run the front-of-the-house, and sommelier/beverage director James McLennan, took hold of the space in April and are hoping to open in the fall. They've launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise opening funds under the working title Calaugusta Cafe and Grocer, which has raised $3,992 out of $15,000 with 28 days to go.
The concept involves bringing chef-driven foodstuffs to the neighborhood in the form of a "true European-style" all-day cafe and market. Expect smoked fish, house-made pate, sandwiches, fresh bakery goods, coffee and pastries during breakfast and lunch hours. At night, it will switch to a full-service bistro serving an "affordable" prix-fixe menu. The grocery portion will offer eggs, dairy, produce and pantry goods. "People can know that they're always going to have the best quality ingredients, sustainably sourced, at a good value," Simmons says in the Kickstarter video.
Simmons also says that they're working out the rest of the details for the project, so stay tuned for more. Former Senza sous chef Jeff Eichem is now running the kitchen at Rootstock, according to Simmons.
This project is just the latest promising new independent business to enter the Humboldt Park intersection under landlord Gino Battaglia (Blue Chicago), a neighborhood that many consider to be the next Logan Square. More to come soon.