If Maple & Ash was any indication, Brian O’Connor’s new River North restaurant, Bar Lupo, won’t take itself too seriously. O’Connor, an opening partner at Maple & Ash, left the sceney, yet irreverent Gold Coast steakhouse earlier this year to build his own restaurant group. Bar Lupo, an Italian pub with a focus on music, opens today and represents his first building block.
They’ve taken over the former Oak + Char space—the same address where Graham Elliot stood—and created what O’Connor calls a "punk rock Italian" aesthetic. The bathroom tries to evoke a (more sanitary) Fireside Bowl or CBGB’s flair. Local and Italian artists have contributed pieces, with O’Connor going for a European feel where modern meets vintage.
There’s a vinyl mural by Pilsen street artist Caesar Perez that includes references to Galileo’s moon journals and sketches from DaVinci’s sketches. They’ve divided the space, which has capacity for 150, into three sections: The lounge, dining room and bar. Yes, there’s three televisions hidden by mirrors.
The first thought that popped into many people’s heads was if River North needed another Italian restaurant. Bar Lupo a neighborhood hang out, there aren’t heavy pastas to weigh diners down. They’ve kept the spirit of Maple & Ash’s fun menu copy writing with items like "A Nice Piece of Fish." The Tribune has the restaurant’s menu from chef Marcos Ascencio (Park Hyatt).
Meanwhile, look at the photos below. Bar Lupo soft opened last week, and officially serves the general public starting tonight.
Bar Lupo, 217 W. Huron St., (312) 643-3400, open at 3 p.m. daily.