Merchant Chicago, the replacement for Dunlay’s on the Square, opens on Saturday near the Logan Square monument. It’s a neighborhood restaurant whose owners want to bring a more youthful energy into the space at 3137 W. Logan Boulevard. The leadership team includes restaurant veterans who have worked for companies like Four Corners (Federales), Big Onion Tavern (Fatpour Tap Works), and LGN Group (Parlor Pizza Bar). Merchant is the team’s first project.
Owner/operator Christopher Huizar is working with general manager Nick Barone. Huizar wants Merchant to blend into the neighborhood. It’ll be sports fan and family friendly; the official opening day coincides with the World Cup’s third-place game and they’ll show the match on TV. Huizar has been working on opening a spot for four years and said he’s feels fortunate for have found such a high-profile Logan Square space. Locals have shown much interest in knowing what’s going in the building. The team is all in their early 30s, and that youth will benefit the building, Huizar said. They wanted to create a space where customers can mingle at night. Most of the layout has remained the same. They’ve made some cosmetic changes with new paint, lighting, and fixtures. They’ve also upgraded the AV systems.
“We wanted to maintain it as the heart and home of the neighborhood,” Huizar said.
They’re serving lunch and dinner at first, but brunch is looming. The food’s not typical pub fare with Mexican, Italian, and Japanese influences. Chef Matt Skolarus has worked at Japonais, Girl & The Goat, and RPM Italian. Their signature item could be a fried rice arancini that blends Asian and Italian tastes.
“Chef Matt makes a phenomenal fried rice,” Huizar said. “He kind of takes it and forms the arancini with a bed of kimchi.”
Huizar brings up youth yet again. For older diners, this kind of cooking may represent fusion. For him and his staff, it’s just an example of the diverse foods they grew up eating. The kitchen should serve food until 1 a.m. on most days. They’ve kept Dunlay’s tap system with 10 beers with two draft cocktails. The drink list should feature about 10 signature drinks. Huizar described a sidecar mixed with tequila and brandy as indicative of what bartenders will make. They may even add a slushy machine. But it won’t be all craft beer as they’ll still serve cheap Budweisers in frozen mugs.
Huizar is committed to Merchant and the neighborhood. Dunlay’s was open for 13 years before it closed in March. But at the same time, he admitted that he has larger aspirations to open more projects. That won’t happen overnight, so for now, they’re focused on Merchant. Check out more coverage later this week.