For more than two months, passersby on Chicago Avenue wondered what would become of the space that housed Ukrainian Village favorite Old Oak Tap. Michael Dean Reynolds knows, as since February the former Brass Monkey chef and his crew have been working on refreshing the space. Later this month or in early April they'll open a new restaurant/bar called The Rookery at 2109 W. Chicago Ave.
Reynolds not only will handle the chef duties, but for the first time he's a partner. He joins partner Amy Teri, who was also an investor in the Old Oak and across the street at The Darkroom. A third partner, Chris Montgomery, is a restaurant newcomer. Reynolds isn't sure why Old Oak closed, but he wants to make The Rookery relevant to the neighborhood in the same way Old Oak was when it opened in 2008: "We're really going to stay true to the ideals that Amy and the old partners held."
Reynolds joined Brass Monkey as executive chef in July, and he's also done stints at Bread & Wine and Leopold. He's still working on the menu, but guests will be able to snack or build a meal with shared plates like spicy crunchy shrimp, fried chicken thighs and a classic Ploughman's plate. Sandwiches and burgers will round out the menu that will be smaller than Old Oak's. Shebnem Ince (The Gage/Henri) is consulting on their wine list. Their beer and liquor will lean toward local and Midwestern producers.
They'll start out with dinner, then add brunch to fill a weekend void left when Old Oak closed. They'll also eventually work in weekday lunch. Reynolds wants to make sure that the patio gets as much use as possible during the summer. They've given the insides a fresh coat of paint and there's new chairs. There will also be TVs for sports.
So why the name? A rookery represents a nest, a group of birds. It reminds the group of family as Teri's mother's nickname is "Bird."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story included a reference to Teri as an investor at The Continental. Bar owner Chris Ongkiko refuted that, saying he has always been the sole investor at the bar.