Joy District, the club/restaurant replacing Epic, will soft open tonight on Hubbard Street before officially opening on Thursday. The owners of neighboring Hubbard Inn have taken over the space and re-skinned it with renovations. Over in the kitchen, they're offering a new menu of shared plates including sushi and meat lollipops, as well as a selection of chops and seafood.
Epic closed in January. Owner Carmen Rossi said he wants three-level Joy District to concentrate more on dining. "It's not just about letting your hair down on Friday and Saturday nights," he says. Rossi doesn't feel Joy District will cannibalize business from Hubbard Inn.
Having Chicago as the host for the James Beard Foundation Awards has impacted Rossi. He acknowledged the rooftop drinking scene at Joy District will continue to be a draw, but the Beards provided motivation to step up his team's culinary game. Joy District has the largest kitchen of any of his restaurants (Pomp & Circumstance, Barn & Company), and he said they have three sous chefs working with executive chef Matt Wilde, a veteran of the clubstaurant circuit with stints at Moonshine, American Junkie and The Local Chicago.
Rossi considers River North "a hospitality district," in a similar vein to Las Vegas, and Joy District will continue to book private events. The full space won't be open immediately. The second floor will open next week, while the roof will open sometime in May, depending on the weather.
The team "probably went a little further than we had to" when it comes to renovating the space, Rossi said. But in the last few weeks he also said he's come to appreciate the history of the building.
Check out the menu—which continues a recent trend of a censored obscenity—below.
Joy District, 112 W. Hubbard St., (312) 955-0339, the first floor will open at 5 p.m. daily until close and the second floor will open 10 p.m. daily until close. The latest is 2 a.m.