Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has finally made the news official: Intro Chicago has permanently shuttered in Lincoln Park after the restaurant quietly closed in the spring. They’ll transition the dining room into a private event space called Stratford on the Park which should open in September. Intro opened in February 2015 with rotating chefs as a way for LEYE founder Rich Melman to mentor budding restaurateurs.
Melman told the Tribune that he wants to continue to mentor, helping chefs open restaurants. Intro’s former chefs include C.J. Jacobson, Stephen Gillanders, and Jessica Largey. Jacobson teamed up with LEYE to open Ema in River North. Largey continues progress on opening Simone in LA. Gillanders’ departure in April (to open his own restaurant in Pilsen) seemed to catch LEYE off guard. Gillanders was named executive chef at Intro, a permanent positiion that saw him oversee the kitchen while chefs continued to rotate.
For the transition, crews will renovate the interiors. Straford’s capacity will be 150 for seated events and 200 for reception-style ones. There’s also an outdoor patio planned to open for spring, according to a release. Chef Andrew Acker, a holdover for when the restaurant was L20, will be in charge of the food options.
Naoki Sushi, the Japanese restaurant that’s been inside Intro’s private space since January 2016, is unaffected by the changeover. LEYE’s new virtual restaurants — Lucky Dumpling (a Chinese spot that’s a spinoff of Gillanders’ dim sum menu) and ASAP Poke (a delivery-only raw fish bowl restaurant) — will also continue to operate as usual.