One of the most influential French restaurants in Chicago’s history is coming back, courtesy of two of the city’s most acclaimed groups. Lettuce Entertain You and the Alinea Group are working to reopen Ambria — the French icon that closed 12 years ago after a 27-year run — in its original Lincoln Park home, according to a news release and the Tribune. The opening is slated for early 2020 in the historic Belden-Stratford building at 2300 N. Lincoln Park West.
Details are currently few on the project that the groups are calling Ambria 2020, as Alinea Group founder Nick Kokonas writes that “at this time we are not doing any interviews or providing any further information.” What they are saying is that the reborn restaurant “will stick firmly to modernizing the very best classical dishes and ingredients,” according to a quote attributed to Grant Achatz in the news release, who will also “have a few tricks up our sleeves.” Lettuce Entertain You chairman RJ Melman, in the release, says Ambria 2020 will be “all new, modern, and stunning,” and the space will have “nods to the original.”
The original Ambria was a fine-dining classic that raised the bar for sophisticated French food, technique, wine, and service during its 27 years in business. For example, in 2010, three years after its closure, Chicago magazine named Ambria the seventh best restaurant in Chicago’s history. Countless local chefs and restaurateurs cite the legendary French restaurant as an influence, including Kokonas, who says in the release that “I loved that place” and that “nothing like it exists in Chicago anymore.”
It was Kokonas who originally suggested four years ago to Lettuce Entertain You founder Rich Melman — who owned the original Ambria — that they reopen the French legend. They decided that now is the right time, as the Belden-Stratford building is slated to undergo a “major” renovation. The building also housed LEYE Michelin-starred restaurant L20, which closed at the end of 2014 and became Intro, followed by a private event space. LEYE’s ever-popular casual French bistro Mon Ami Gabi and acclaimed sushi spot Naoki currently reside at the historic address.
Although this is the first restaurant Lettuce Entertain You and the Alinea Group have partnered on, Kokonas and LEYE have had a working relationship since Intro started using his reservation ticketing platform Tock when it opened in early 2015. Stay tuned for more on their first restaurant partnership, as Kokonas says there’s “more to come early next year.”