Geographic and culinary diversity are two points of emphasis for Forum 55, as on Monday morning the owners of the upcoming Loop food hall unveiled its restaurant vendor lineup. The food hall, located on the concourse level of the office building at 55 E. Monroe St., should open next month. The lineup features a new restaurant from a well-regarded Lincoln Park meat monger as Butcher & Larder will serve burgers and more. Flo & Santos will bring its “Flying Pork” wings and pierogis from the South Loop to downtown, and Mercadito is doing a taqueria using techniques from their River North spot.
Celebrity chef Jeff Mauro, who sells meaty sandwiches at his Wicker Park restaurant, Pork & Mindy’s, will also serve items at Forum 55. Pork & Mindy’s has presences at Wrigley Field and Soldier Field for sports fans.
One component of the project is a space to help less-established chefs and restaurateurs by giving people of color and women of all shades an opportunity to serve food or to test out a concept. The participants in this “food-service incubator,” called The Apron Exchange, will be revealed next week, according to a Forum 55 spokesman. The food hall also plans on getting local culinary schools involved on the project.
The space used to be the Under 55 Cafe, and part of the renovation includes adding a salad bar with produce picked by Local Foods, the Bucktown store that houses Butcher & Larder. Forum 55’s news release called The Community Garden one of the largest salad bars in Chicago. Friends Ramen and Sushi in River North will also occupy a hall spot, serving noodles and those trendy poke bowls. Other vendors include Prelude, an omelet station; and The Sandwich Shop which will use house-roasted meats like hot-sliced turkey and pastrami in made-to-order sandwiches.
The hall will also feature a rotating concept from Eurest, a corporate food service provider (they also are owners of the food hall). They’ll swap out items on a weekly basis. For example, one week they’ll go Indian with a build-your-own rice bowl concept with chicken makhani and curried braised lamb (rogan josh). Another week they’ll do Korean bowls, Thai, or Italian pasta.
The Butcher & Larder Grill is not just about prepared foods, as Rob Levitt’s shop will also peddle meats for home cooks. That includes the butcher’s popular hot dogs and sausages. Leavitt, via email, wrote that they’ve worked on pop-ups with Eurest and have a good relationship. They’ll offer about 20 retail items to start, including steaks and more.
“It is an opportunity to extend the B&L brand and provide great, local product in a super accessible way to people in another part of the city,” he wrote. “Between our daily menu and the selection of retail products in our grab-n-go, we want to make it easier for people downtown to enjoy the amazing, local products we feature at our store on Willow.”
The vendors’ hours vary, but at least from the start they’ll only be open on weekdays. Stay tuned for more info in the coming weeks leading to the opening.