It's almost go time for Smyth and The Loyalist, the fine-dining and complementary casual restaurants in the West Loop. John and Karen Shields are targeting an early August opening for The Loyalist, as their staff currently undergoes training over at 177 N. Ada St. They've brought on Roger Landes, the former general manager at mfk, as lead bartender. The Smyth will follow with a September opening.
Landes joined the team about two months ago, and said he's embraced the same seasonality the Shieldses use in their menu. That's something many Chicago bars refuse to accept: "I still see rhubarbs all over bars, all over the place," Landes said. "I'm not really so sure where they're getting that."
They're looking at amari and wine pairings upstairs at Smyth, which will be more wine focused. A beverage cart will eventually be part of the mix, stocked with rare spirits. Rare doesn't necessarily mean expensive, Landes noted.
Folks in shorts, sandals —even those wearing Blackhawks sweaters— will be welcome at The Loyalist, the Smyth's neighborhood sidekick. They'll have TVs, and hopefully draw hockey and basketball fans near the United Center. They won't focus on a particular spirit, as the cocktail list right now consists of three whisky, three gin, two agave and a brandy drink. They'll also rotate selections in the name of seasonality. Landes knows how hard it may be to take favorites off the menu, but he's prepared: "Like they say, sometimes you have to murder your darlings."
One of the drinks will feature sotol, blanca tequilla, cilantro oil with savory-toasted coriander bitters. There's also a black Manhattan with pipe tobacco bitters infused with dark spirits. They'll also feature non-alcoholic drinks —they're working on a sun tea which will use black walnut leaves. Landes hopes guests will enjoy the creativity in the drinks without feeling any pretension. Not all drinks will be mixed in three minutes or less, but he wants them approachable.
"They've been making really fancy cocktails in America and Chicago in particular for hundreds of years. Those drinks took some time. Those drinks were flashy," he said.
But for those not interested in a regal cocktail experience, Landes said they'll have a $7 shot and beer combo (Lone Star and Old Gran-Dad). They'll also pour beer from local breweries.
For more on Smyth and The Loyalist, check back in the coming weeks.