Any opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago brings plenty of fanfare, and the same can be said about its new restaurant and bar, Marisol, which opens today in Streeterville. Jason Hammel, the chef/owner of Lula Cafe in Logan Square, brings a touch of his neighborhood restaurant to downtown Chicago, with a Midwestern menu that attempts to link food with art. Separate from Marisol, there’s a counter-service area for Metric coffee and pastries that the MCA calls The Street — that portion of the project isn’t quite yet open.
Award-winning British artist Chris Ofili decorated the space used bright colors to decorate the 125-seat space that features a centerpiece mural on the back wall. The space’s vibrance is supposed to match the bright flavors in Hammel’s menu. The MCA didn’t put out a formal artist’s statement for Hammel, but the rotating menu features dry-aged steak, steamed swordfish, and roasted chicken as mains. There’s also unique pastas, and a slew of starters including chilled octopus, crispy eggplant, and fried quail. They’ll also serve lunch, and weekend brunch.
The restaurant represents a natural progression for Hammel. He told NewCity that the MCA’s cutting edge and its focus on the present reminds him of how menus change seasonally. Pasty chef Alison Cates who worked at Honey’s in West Loop and Perennial Virant in Lincoln Park, will take a cue from Preservation Kitchen author chef Paul Virant. She’ll use canning and jams in her desserts. Sweets include a chocolate Namaleka (almond, cherry, noyaux) and sunflower tart (buckwheat, seasonal blackberries). This food is far from a museum cafeteria’s.
But don’t forget the bar. They’ll serve natural wines and house cocktails like the “Number 13” (batavia arrack, falernum, cocchi americano, lime, angostura bitters, mint). The spirit list will also feature vermouth.
MCA officials are making it clear that the restaurant is open to the public — not just museum goers — as it’s part of a $16 million facelift for the museum. The MCA is also a popular spot for private events including weddings. Hammel’s food should make even more difficult to book an event.
Marisol is an ambitious restaurant, right off the Mag Mile, inside the space that previously housed Puck's At The MCA. Will Hammel’s kitchen artistry translate downtown? Find out today, when Marisol opens. The Street will open for counter service at a future date.
Marisol, 205 E. Pearson St. inside the Museum of Contemporary Art, open 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday. The bar’s open the same hours except it closes at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The counter service restaurant, The Street, will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Reservation available on the restaurant’s website via OpenTable.