Papa Cenar opens this afternoon inside the former Twain space in Logan Square. The restaurant’s ownership remains the same with the co-owner of the Dawson bringing a blend of Spanish and Mediterranean small plates into a repurposed auto repair garage at 2445 N. Milwaukee Avenue. Instead of drawing inspiration from Mark Twain, as the former iteration did, co-owner Branko Palikuca is turning to another writer — Ernest Hemingway —as the muse for the space.
Palikuca partnered with Jordan Mozer, the prolific architect who’s worked with filmmaker George Lucas, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, and several hotels including the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The Hemingway influence comes by way of the writer’s love for Parisian cafes. “Papa” also became a nickname for him — “cenar” means “to dine” in Spanish.
Twain closed in May after eight months. The restaurant brought a fun and nostalgic Midwestern vibe from chef Tim Graham who has since moved on to work at Nico Osteria in Gold Coast. No matter how thoughtful the cuisine, the neighborhood didn’t respond well to the theme.
Palikuca still feels bad that Twain didn’t work out and said he wanted to give Graham a way to showcase his kitchen talents. But he acknowledged the need to move on from the former restaurant. Palikuca in June visited Madrid and felt inspired by the cafes in Spain. He wants Papa Cenar to appeal to younger customers, and feels small plates can give customers more options. They can visit without spending a lot of money.
The restaurant will make more use of the bar area, which now has comfy lounge seating, low sofas, and room for 32 people. Designers also added plants throughout the space. Twain’s old mural remains, but there’s also a new one for Papa Cenar.
The drink menu will feature more $10 wines by the glass, as well as more gin and tonics, a Spanish favorite. Palikuca wants Logan Square residents to know the restaurant is willing to adapt to the neighborhood’s needs. For example, he’s expanded the vegetarian options.
The menu’s divided into vegetable, seafood, meat, and grilled sections. The staff uses a wood-fired grill in the kitchen. Palikuca highlighted the heirloom cauliflower (Sardinian vinaigrette, Manchego, blistered grapes). Even though he said he’s more of meat guy, Palikuca said the veggie dishes dazzled him. Meat dishes include a N.Y. strip steak with chimichurri, whole-grilled branzino, and albondigas. They’ve taken a team approach to developing the menu, which is a change from Twain.
“I want people to come and enjoy, invite more friends, and just have a great dining experience,” Palikuca said.
There’s also a 32-seat back patio. Take a look at the menus below. Papa Cenar opens this afternoon.
Papa Cenar, 2445 N. Milwaukee Avenue, (773) 697-8463, open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Brunch to start in two weeks from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.