What many consider Chicago’s top restaurant group is closing a restaurant for the first time, but One Off Hospitality has bigger plans for its space in the heart of Wicker Park. Publican Anker, the group’s spinoff of one of Chicago’s most beloved restaurants, will hold its last service for brunch on March 24. Expect the group to open a new restaurant in its place that’s “unique to the city” in late spring or early summer, executive chef and partner Paul Kahan says.
“The restaurant does well but I’m excited about a new concept we’re doing,” Kahan says. “It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”
Kahan is keeping specifics under wraps about what the new restaurant will be until a later date. The few details he’s willing to share now are that it “will be more of a restaurant” than Anker, which also draws a robust drinking crowd, and that the space will undergo a complete redesign.
Publican Anker opened in November 2016 in the former Francesca’s Forno space at 1576 N. Milwaukee Avenue in the neighborhood nexus of the North/Milwaukee/Damen intersection. The restaurant and bar was popular with both customers and critics since, but Kahan and One Off still decided to switch gears and close their first spot in the 22-year history of the group, which began with the opening of their pioneering first restaurant Blackbird in 1997.
“[Deciding to close] is very humbling,” Kahan says. “We went with the Anker concept because we felt it was the best move at the time. It hasn’t been a failure — we’re just excited to do something we think is better.”
One Off Hospitality becomes the second highly acclaimed restaurant group in one year to have Wicker Park be home to its first closing. Rick Bayless also shuttered a standalone restaurant for the first time in January 2018, a space less than two blocks away from Anker that continues to be vacant.
Major differences between the two, however, are One Off Hospitality has proven time and again that they can be very successful in Wicker Park, and that they still will operate a restaurant in the space. The group’s other establishments in the neighborhood — the original Big Star, the Violet Hour, and Dove’s Luncheonette — continue to be extremely busy and aren’t slated to go anywhere. Kahan also says closing Anker “has zero effect” on the Publican brand, which encompasses the original in Fulton Market as well as Publican Quality Meats, Publican Quality Bread, and Publican Tavern in O’Hare International Airport.
Thus, he reiterates the closing is about opening a completely different restaurant and implementing a new “concept that’s great for the neighborhood and great for the city.” Stay tuned for more details on what that is as diners have less than a month to visit Anker before it closes.