When Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry of acclaimed NYC bar The Dead Rabbit were approached by Danny Meyer's Union Square Events to partner on a new bar and restaurant in Chicago, the Irish-bred cocktailers were floored. "At first we had to pinch ourselves," Muldoon, who admits he hasn't spent a lot of time in Chicago but says Meyer is "well-versed," says. "It was a done deal from the word go," and they signed on in February.
But what type of bar would it be? Meyer's group already had the space, a swanky indoor-outdoor terrace on the 18th floor of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital office complex in Streeterville, but the concept was up for grabs.
What emerged—and is opening to the public today—is GreenRiver, a "modern bar with Irish undertones"; a "historical concept with modern day drinks." The partners wanted a place that would enhance the Chicago scene and have "something for everyone," from the hospital workers to neighborhood residents to cocktail enthusiasts.
Designed by McGarry and head bartender Julia Momose (The Aviary), the opening cocktail menu (in full below) is a sprawling book that pays deep homage to Chicago's Irish history, sectioned by a variety of base spirits and main ingredients. Despite more than 200 available whiskeys, many cocktails (most are between $13 and $19) are culinary-driven and employ interesting combinations and food-forward ingredients. Momose added a local focus from her knowledge of the Chicago scene.
The food, run by chef Aaron Lirette, is more straightforward. The team wanted "good, honest Midwestern food but really done well," and Lirette's opening menus (read the dinner and lunch items below) are indicative of that. It's a traditional bar snack-appetizer-entree layout filled with many traditional items with slight twists, and the only dish over $23 is a $105 beef for two. It closes after dinner hours (10:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11:30 p.m. Saturdays), which places more emphasis on dining.
For Muldoon and McGarry, many aspects of GreenRiver represent their continued evolution, branching out to more modern preparations, a gorgeous glass-enclosed space in a high-rise, their first restaurant-cocktail bar combination, a partnership with someone they were "in awe with," and a brand new market. Try it in person beginning tonight.
GreenRiver, 259 E. Erie St. 18th Floor, (312) 337-0101, Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m. - 3:30 pm and 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m., Saturday 5 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.