Split-Rail’s owner and chef Zoë Schor wanted to make her West Town restaurant more versatile to accommodate the neighborhood and more customers. A little more than a year after Schor, the former chef at Ada Street, debuted her restaurant she and her team announced they’d briefly close the restaurant to reconfigure the kitchen and overhaul the menu. That menu, which debuts Friday, features Schor’s specials from her fried chicken and champagne dinners.
It’s a bold move for Split-Rail, which like other restaurants across the city, is competing against each other. For Schor, the new direction was a way to make her restaurant unique.
“It’s easy to get lost in the wash in the world of contemporary American restaurants,” Schor said.
When Split-Rail opened in summer 2017, the food was a playful and creative spin on American comfort classics. She served loaded baked potato gnocchi and a deconstructed steak fajita. Despite critical acclaim, Schor sought feedback from locals who responded positively to fried chicken. When it reopens on Friday, Schor envisions Split-Rail as an affordable neighborhood restaurant idea for last-second reservations for groups.
It’ll eventually unveil delivery through Caviar and offer take-out orders. Schor, who grew up near Boston and is by default a Red Sox fan, hopes sports fans will order wings for their game-viewing needs at home. Likewise, barflies and nearby drinking holes like Archie’s Tavern and Blind Robin could bring Split-Rail’s food to the bar. She calls the synergy among local businesses “one big summer camp” where everyone knows each other. Split-Rail 2.0 will tap into that more.
The chicken is brined, breaded, lightly seasoned, and deep-fried in canola oil. It’s not very spicy. There’s also gluten-free chicken and a vegan alternative with house-made seitan. Check out the full menu below. The poultry is ethically sourced from Freebird Chicken.
The restaurant is ready to handle more orders. The kitchen initially had only one 35-pound deep fryer. They’ve added three 75-pound fryers to keep up with volume. That’s the big change as the cocktail program, decor, and name remain the same.
Earlier this summer, the restaurant shifted from OpenTable to Reserve for reservations. The transition cost Split-Rail as OpenTable was slow to delete the restaurant’s portal. So potential customers who looked up Split-Rail on OpenTable were shown that there were no reservations available. There was no message or indication that reservations could be had elsewhere. That hurt the business, but Schor continued to work and she knew her restaurant needed to evolve. She said feels rejuvenated and excited by the change.
“It’s really not a re-concepting as much as it’s a tightening of focus,” Schor said.
Read the full menu below. Split-Rail reopens on Friday at 2500 W. Chicago Avenue.