The team behind Monnie Burke’s, an upcoming Pilsen restaurant from the owners of Maya Del Sol in Oak Park and the Pizza Capri mini-chain, are eager to blend into the historic neighborhood of immigrants. The spacious family-friendly restaurant should open early next month with seating for 180 inside and another 180 outdoors at 1163 W. 18th Street. They’re describing the menu as American with hints of Spanish, Italian, and French. It should open in early April on the former Perez Restaurant parcel.
Co-owner Anan Abu-Taleb is the mayor of Oak Park and his suburban Mexican restaurant attracts families during the day who give way to more of a bar scene at night. While the cuisine will be different, that’s the same goal ownership has for Monnie Burke’s, said Larry Flam, a Chicago restaurant industry veteran and Abu-Taleb’s director of operations.
Margi Abu-Taleb, the mayor’s wife and co-owner of the restaurant, named her upcoming Pilsen spot after her aunt. Flam described her as a classic Chicagoan with a passion for civil rights. She was a social worker who taught at Loyola University. She kept politically active in Cesar Chavez’s farmer’s movement in the 1960s and 70s. She even knew folk singer Pete Seeger, another fellow activist. Burke’s background seemed like a proper fit for a Pilsen restaurant’s name, Flam said. It demonstrated a desire to invest in the neighborhood.
“River North and the West Loop have changed — they’re different,” Flam said. “Pilsen has always been a classic Chicago neighborhood with diverse immigrants through the years.”
While the interiors won’t directly tap into Pilsen’s current Mexican heritage, Flam described the design as featured tons of exposed brick for an old-school Chicago vibe.
The food is from chef Michael Shrader, last seen with Matthias Merges’s Folkart Restaurant Management and at Old Irving Brewing Company and Gideon Sweet. Flam knew Shrader from his cooking with the N9NE Group, a company that’s exited Chicago. Shrader’s work at Urban Union — a seafood spot that closed in 2013 after about a year off Taylor Street — impressed Flam.
The drinks are from Clint Rogers’ Dogma Group with Lance Bowman as beverage director. They’ll have a few draft cocktails including a paloma: “That will be a real patio pounder, as they say,” said Flam.
A lively weekend brunch will be part of the menu, which they’re still finalizing. They’ll release more details in the coming weeks. Besides Maya Del Sol, the Abu-Talebs run Pizza Capri, a restaurant with locations in Hyde Park and Lincoln Park.