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Ex-Alinea Group Chef to Open a ‘Throwback Neighborhood Restaurant’ in West Town

Andrew Brochu is taking over the Natalino’s space which has been vacant for seven years

A chef cutting up a chicken and seasoning it.
Chef Andrew Brochu will bring his fried chicken to West Town
Nick Murway/Eater Chicago

A chef formerly with the illustrious Alinea Group will fill a long-vacant West Town space with a new “throwback neighborhood restaurant” with plenty of chicken, seafood, and drinks. Andrew Brochu, who helmed the kitchen at Alinea Group’s more-casual Fulton Market restaurant Roister until December 2018 — creating the restaurant’s legendary fried chicken, as well as its smoked oysters and other dishes — plans to open Brochu’s in early summer at 1523 W. Chicago Avenue.

Although Brochu has plenty of fine-dining experience in Chicago, his heart has always been with the casual neighborhood bar and grills he grew up with in Florida and Georgia, he says. Thus he plans his first restaurant to be a fun, affordable spot with the type of chicken, seafood, drinks, and Southern hospitality he reveres from his childhood.

“[Brochu’s will be a] throwback to neighborhood joints that aren’t that prevalent anymore,” the chef says, “a mom and pop kind of place.”

Expect plenty of affordable chicken, seafood, and southern-tinged dishes at Brochu’s. The chef says the restaurant will serve chicken by the piece, chicken dinners, a low-country boil in stew form, buttermilk biscuits with foie gras pate and strawberry jam, a play on caviar and chips, a large salad and vegetable section, daily-changing chef’s specials, and an oyster program that’s “not super fancy.” He plans to offer raw, grilled, smoked, and baked oysters with different toppings and preparations, including a baked version with green gumbo and scallions. A “social” full bar program will offer “really good classic drinks,” wines, and “ice cold beer.”

Brochu will even serve his famous fried chicken sandwich with a signature sunchoke sauce he made famous at Roister, a recipe for which he says he has had for 10 years. “The food I was serving at Roister is the food I do,” he says.

An Italian-American restaurant, Natalino’s, occupied the space from 2008 to 2012; the building’s been vacant since then. It includes a 20-seat bar on one side and a 90-seat dining room on the other, as well as a basement space Brochu may turn into a private dining room or another bar in the future. Also look for a 50-seat sidewalk patio on the side during the warm months.

“Man, this is a beautiful space,” Brochu says he thought when he first viewed it. “It had that energy.”

The same designer who worked on Elske in West Loop and Good Fortune in Logan Square will shape Brochu’s. The chef says he’s not implementing a full buildout — terming it a “huge remodel” — and hopes to turn it around by the summer.

Since Natalino’s closed, the Chicago Avenue strip has been blossoming into a hot dining district. Several restaurants have opened nearby, including Opart Thai House, Fry the Coop, Funkenhausen, Beatnik, and Porto. The strip should only grow in popularity with this addition.

Brochu, who left Roister to open his own restaurant, has plenty of fine-dining experience. He moved to Chicago out of culinary school to work at Alinea and began at the Aviary in 2012. Brochu also worked at Graham Elliot and Kith and Kin.

But he says he wanted Roister to even become more casual before deciding to go that direction with his own restaurant. Stay tuned for updates.

Crain’s first reported this story.

Brochu’s, 1523 W. Chicago Avenue, Scheduled for a mid-summer opening.