The Smith, a restaurant that debuted in 2007 in New York’s East Village and has since opened three additional locations in N.Y. and another two in D.C., is coming to Chicago. The restaurants draw a blend of corporate customers, students, and locals and founder Jeffrey Lefcourt hopes to replicate that formula in River North. His plans call for a 200-seat dining room on the main floor and a 20-seat private event room in the basement at 400 N. Clark Street.
Management has already begun posting job listings. Lefcourt said he hopes to open the restaurant early next year, hopefully in January or February. “We’re going for as cold as possible,” he joked.
The Smith is an all-day restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. It also offers delivery and to-go orders. Families, first dates, and out of towners all feel welcome at The Smith’s other locations that offer food options including almost-burned, caramelized macaroni and cheese, burgers, and french fries. There’s also a full line of steaks for fancier dinners. The prices will differ in Chicago, but the basic burger in East Village costs $18.
Lefcourt spent some time talking about how special he felt the fries are and how kitchen staff concentrates on making sure the taters are done right. The beers, steaks, and raw bar selections could make The Smith another happy hour monster for River North.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time in Chicago for the last four years or so, trying to figure out the best spot for us there,” Lefcourt said.
Lefcourt spoke a lot about hospitality and ensuring customers are treated well. He repeated talking points about core values including mentioning that one of the restaurant’s mottos is to “say yes” to the customer. The Smith hopes that Chicago diners are similar to New York’s, needing a restaurant that can support every day dining and special occasions with a bar that serves signature cocktails good for the occasional late night.
Eleven years ago when the Smith debuted, restaurant ownership didn’t anticipate opening multiple locations, Lefcourt said. While each of the Smith’s six locations share similarities, Lefcourt was quick to say that the design isn’t cookie cutter. The Chicago restaurant’s layout will be unique. It’ll also have a sidewalk patio.
“Whatever we will do, it will be special for Chicago and we will listen to the neighborhood,” Lefcourt said.
Besides the parallels with New York customers, Lefcourt has experience in Chicago. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, which is about 150 miles away. Lefcourt said he’ll share more information as it becomes available, so stay tuned for updates.