Despite all-star bartender Jim Meehan’s presence, Heisler Hospitality has pulled the plugs on Prairie School and Regards to Edith, their neighboring bar and restaurant in Fulton Market inside Google’s 1K Fulton building. The last day of service for both will be Saturday after staying open for eight months. The spot hasn’t had much luck, as Smack Shack — a seafood spot — lasted 11 months at 326 N. Morgan Street before Heisler took over.
“While there has been much success over the past eight months, it has not been without its challenges,” part of a statement from Heisler read. “We are faced with the reality that the businesses are not sustainable.”
Prairie School blended Midwestern sensibilities with Japanese flavors and had a decor inspired by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. That mix led Eater Chicago to name Prairie School its 2017 Bar of the Year. Coincidentally, it’s the second bar of the year to close less than year after it won the award. Mezcaleria Las Flores, the 2016 winner, shuttered in November in Logan Square.
Meehan’s a suburban Chicago native who made his mark nationally by opening PDT, a renown speakeasy-style bar that opened in 2007 in New York. His brother, Peter Meehan, was a partner at the defunct Lucky Peach food magazine with Momofuku chef David Chang and a co-producer of Netflix’s Ugly Delicious.
When contacted directly, Jim Meehan replied that he’s “proud of what we did there... it just wasn’t enough to make ends meet.” He went more into specifics in a lengthy Instagram post on Monday night. He tried to take responsibility for the shutter, which he described as “entirely financially driven.” He also called Prairie School “the most ambitious bar I’ve ever been a part of and its shortcomings are mine if you’d like to view them that way.”
Regards to Edith was kept separate from Prairie School. It stumbled out of the gate and that led to the departure of chef Jared Wentworth less than two months after the opening. He created an homage to Chicago street foods that included a prime rib shaved Italian beef that cost $19. Restaurant management later knocked $2 off the price of the sandwich and re-named the $17 item the “Prime Rib Sandwich,” a Heisler spokeswoman wrote via email. The company also continues to enjoy success on nearby Randolph Street with its craft beer bar Lone Wolf. Bad Hunter’s veggie-centric menu and second-floor private event space continue to draw crowds in the West Loop, but this is the second shutter the company’s had to endure in eight months. Heisler closed Trench in September in Wicker Park. Wentworth, the former Longman & Eagle chef, created Trench’s menu. He is now at Mordecai in Wrigleyville.
Meehan’s statement mentioned the surrounding area. He envisions more construction as developers wipe out any trace of Fulton Market’s meatpacking history. But foot traffic is a problem. Construction to make the area more pedestrian friendly has actually made the area difficult to walk in the interim with sidewalks ripped up and streets closed. Google employees also have the benefit of the company’s own commissary with chef-prepared meals. So there’s competition, along with the Ace Hotel across the street and its restaurant, City Mouse, and rooftop bar, Waydown.
“[A]nother bar operator will hopefully take this space and find great success here,” Meehan wrote. “I wish them my very best and thank everyone who supported us — and even those who didn’t — over the last eight months.”
Read Meehan and Heisler’s full statements below. Prairie School and Regards to Edith close on Saturday night.
Here’s Meehan’s statement:
Today my partners from Heisler Hospitality announced we will close Prairie School and Regards to Edith after our last service this upcoming Saturday. While I’m still processing all the fraught emotions around this decision- one that was level-headed and entirely financially driven- I’m refusing to allow doubt or despair cloud my feelings about our efforts on Morgan Street. Prairie School is- till Saturday- the most ambitious bar I’ve ever been a part of and its shortcomings are mine if you’d like to view them that way. The outcome of this week’s decision certainly don’t reflect the efforts of one of the best teams I’ve ever worked with under Kristina Magro’s leadership. Or Kevin Heisner’s design, our purveyor’s best products, and so much support from the industry and media. We don’t close till Saturday, so please come visit the bar one last time if you can. Pick up your mug if you bought one, or buy one of the few remaining, and make Japanese Whisky Highballs at home in them. Please support and thank the bar team one last time. We’re proud of what we did here, why we did it, of our city, and all our purveyors who saved their best for us to share with those of you who made it in. As the neighborhood grows around 326 N. Morgan Street, another bar operator will hopefully take this space and find great success here. I wish them my very best and thank everyone who supported us- and even those who didn’t- over the last eight months. It’s been the honor of a lifetime to contribute to the diverse dining and drinking tapestry of my home town over the past eight months
Here’s Heisler’s statement:
“It’s with much sadness that we announce the closure of both Regards to Edith and Prairie School, with final service on Saturday, May 26th. When we took over the space at 326 N. Morgan St. in 2017, our goal was to offer two distinct concepts to the neighborhood. While there has been much success over the past eight months, it has not been without its challenges. We are faced with the reality that the businesses are not sustainable. We have immense pride and gratitude for our staff, who brought Edith and Prairie to life and taking care of them is our first priority. Thank you to everyone who has visited, supported and shared kind words about us. We’re forever grateful.”