The line between artist and chef will blur further when Lula Cafe’s chef/proprietor Jason Hammel opens a new restaurant next year inside the Museum of Contemporary Art in Streeterville. The new restaurant is part of a $16 million renovation plan for the MCA. They’ll reveal more details in June, according to the Tribune, but the unnamed restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner while also offering to-go items.
The sit-down restaurant with a full-service bar will introduce many downtown dwellers and tourists to Hammel’s talents. Lula opened 18 years ago across the street from the Logan Square monument. A mainstay on the Eater 38 and Michelin’s Bib Gourmand list, the restaurant’s regularly-rotating menu represents a farm-to-table vanguard in Chicago.
The New York Times called the restaurant the highlight of the renovation work. It will feature a mural from Chris Ofili, an English painter who earned the prestigious Turner Prize in 1998. Ofili’s influence will go beyond the mural, as it appears he’ll aid in the entire restaurant’s design.
The MCA, which opened in 1996 at the current location, won’t be the first museum in Chicago to offer chef-driven food. Terzo Piano opened in 2009 inside the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing featuring food from Spiaggia chef Tony Mantuano. Previously, the MCA housed Puck’s At The MCA, a restaurant featuring celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s name. The deal with Puck had expired and another company is currently running that space. Now called the MCA Cafe, that restaurant will close on Tuesday for construction.
Everybody involved is shooting for a summer opening, and with the cafe closed for construction, the MCA will offer "alternate" food options on the second floor. There’s also plans for a pop-up on Tuesdays, but details weren’t made available.
Event catering is important for any museum, and Lula is no stranger to catering weddings and other events. While there’s no details if Hammel will take over MCA catering, he certainly has the pedigree to do so. And that will lead to happier downtown nuptials.