A swap of upscale seafood chains comes to the Gold Coast as Truluck’s Seafood Steak & Crab House, a Texas-based group with 11 locations, has taken over the McCormick & Schmick’s space at 41 E. Chestnut St. Truluck’s, which specializes in fresh Florida stone crab, took over the space on July 10 and is shooting for a late-October opening, said COO David Tripoli. McCormick & Schmick’s had been at that address for more than a decade.
This would be Truluck’s debut in Chicago, but the team has experience in the market. Ownership teamed up with Pro Football Hall of Famer Walter Payton on a handful of bars and restaurants using the name of the late Bears’ running back. Truluck’s has locations in Texas, Florida, and California and they’re also planning one in Rosemont that should open next spring, according to a rep.
The chain has been around for 25 years and Chicago represents a mile-marker. Tripoli mentioned success in La Jolla, Calif., a market that gave his team a challenge. But their sustained efforts in California, where “they didn’t care about Florida stone crab,” have been rewarded.
“To be quite honest, we finally feel it’s time for us,” Tripoli said. “We just might be good enough to compete in Chicago.”
So what will distinguish Truluck’s from the other chains off Rush Street? Tripoli points to sustainable seafood and a lively atmosphere backed by daily pianist performances who are accompanied on weekends by lounge singers. He also talked about the need to attract more women to the restaurant, how Truluck’s needed to leave the stuffy steakhouse environment of the 1980s behind.
Back in Chicago, demolition crews have begun work so customers should expect a drastic change from the previous tenant. They are somewhat limited in how much rehab that can accomplish, however, as the restaurant is inside the Lipinski Federal Building and some things can’t be moved, Tripoli said. The furniture, staircase, and sconces will be updated. They’ll also add a stage.
Even though the Truluck’s name is new to Chicago, Tripoli believes some locals are familiar with their brand. He cites a report compiled by American Express that showed 57 percent of their revenue last year at their Naples, Florida. restaurant came from customers from Illinois. Most of those diners were likely snowbirds. Truluck’s demographics range vary from location. In Florida it skews older in the 60s, but Tripoli expects the bar/lounge in Chicago to bring in customers in their late-30s, with the dining room average age to hover in the 40s.
Truluck’s GM in Fort Lauderdale, William Salogar, is moving to Chicago to oversee the Gold Coast location. The native Michigander is happy to return to the Midwest, as Florida was “kind of melting pot of everyone who doesn’t like each other —Boston, New York, Philly.”
He believes how good seafood is better appreciated here. “You can actually feel like you’ve left that crappy weather for a little bit when you see that fresh King crab on the plate,” Salagar said. “It’s awesome.”