A contemporary American restaurant that aims to highlight innovative approaches to fine-dining ingredients is coming to a high-profile space in Streeterville next week. WoodWind, a new venue from New York-based Craveable Hospitality Group, opens to the public October 16 at 259 E. Erie Street on the 18th floor of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital campus’s Lavin Family Pavilion. The high-rise space with a picturesque terrace previously housed Michelin-starred GreenRiver, which closed in early 2018 after less than two-and-a-half years in business.
Matt O’Neill (Craigie on Main, Bar Boulud, Ajax Tavern), vice president of culinary at Craveable Hospitality, designed the menu that’s divided into several sections: snacks, vegetables (“mostly veg”), seafood (“from the sea”), and meat (“fields and ranches”). Each dish is designed around one ingredient and O’Neill, who is also CEO of Cr(eat)e Restaurant Consulting, wants the menu to reflect what’s ripest at a given time. “Mother Nature doesn’t always have just four seasons,” he said in an interview. “It’s ever-flowing, so we want to keep it interesting and playful.”
That sense of fun is important to O’Neill, who said the team comes from a fine-dining background and will demonstrate high-level techniques in a way that feels “approachable.” The snack menu, for example, will include a “chicken wing” composed of rice and chicken mousse that’s dehydrated and then fried. The result is a kind of chicken chicharron that’s dusted with buffalo and vinegar powder, then served with an airy blue cheese foam and pickled vegetables. Chefs also had fun creating a foie gras “Big Mac,” treating the expensive ingredient like a patty inside a steamed bao with American cheese, bread and butter pickles, shredded lettuce, chopped onions, and WoodWind’s in-house “fancy sauce.”
Mindful of the costs associated with contemporary small-plate restaurants, O’Neill said it’s important to him that diners leave feeling satiated. “It’s not a 10-course tasting menu where you need a slice of pizza after,” he said, emphasizing the importance of value to customers. He’s also invested significant time into training — front-of-house staff are spending four weeks learning about the menu and preparing to guide diners through the experience.
When diners enter the elevated space in the Lavin Family Pavilion, they will be greeted by a wine display and tasting table, easing the transition from the street to the high-rise restaurant space. In an effort to foster a lively atmosphere, designers have arranged a “chef’s table” between the bar and open kitchen where customers can interact with cooks and share in the excitement of the kitchen. While O’Neill created the concept and menu, an as-yet-unnamed local chef will run the kitchen day-to-day.
The 18th-floor location is enormous at approximately 20,000 square feet, but is also divided into a 100-seat dining room, large patio, and versatile event space for weddings, parties, meetings, and more. Leadership anticipates that events will constitute a significant portion of their business. Each section of the space has its own bar, where O’Neill plans to offer a rotating list of seasonal cocktails and large drinks for groups. The WoodWind team will use a tap system that contains two draft beers, two wines, and two cocktails, as well as bottled beers and wines by the glass. Price points range from $10 - $28 per glass.
WoodWind opens next Wednesday inside the Lavin Family Pavilion. Stay tuned for more news as the launch grows closer.