The owners of Siena Tavern in River North and BomboBar in West Loop are opening a casual neighborhood restaurant and bar in the West Loop space that celebrity chef Graham Elliot once called his own. Bandit should open in early June at 841 W. Randolph Street, the former home of Graham Elliot Bistro and Gideon Sweet.
DineAmic Hospitality Group co-founder David Rekhson sees Bandit as complementing Randolph Restaurant Row, home of big names like Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat and Rick Bayless’s Leña Brava. Ownership wants to open a place where patrons can have pre- or post-dinner drinks before or after visits to nearby restaurants like DineAmic’s own Bar Siena down the street. But at the same time, lunch and dinner will be taken seriously. Rekhson said diners will find a cut of the same dry-aged beef like they do at Prime & Provisions, the company’s River North steakhouse. The menu will feature creative spins on American comfort foods.
The vibe will grow more toward a bar as the music’s volume increases into the night. That’s in line with the atmosphere at other DineAmic spots, which include two other West Loop restaurants. It’s a successful strategy and Rekhson feels he and company co-founder Lucas Stoioff have a good handle of what works in the neighborhood. For example, a restaurant in the West Loop needs to know how events at the nearby United Center will affect business. Bar Siena’s been open for four years on Randolph.
“It was a while until we figured out how all that works,” Rekhson said.
The Bandit space last housed Gideon Sweet, a collaboration between Matthias Merges and Elliot that closed in October, and part of what attracted DineAmic to the space was an 80-seat patio surrounded by cobblestone, Rekhson said. It reminds him of dining al fresco in Paris. Bandit (the name isn’t a Burt Reynolds’s reference, Rekhson said) will also serve weekday lunch so customers can take a break from the workweek with a burger or sandwich. The mantra is to serve the best possible versions of familiar items. For example, they’ll serve hot dogs with natural casings with pickles made at the restaurant.
“I think the location needed to be a little bit more mainstream, a little bit more casual,” Rekhson.
Rekhson didn’t reveal the chef’s name, only saying that it’s a name familiar to Chicagoans. The only other nugget is that the chef didn’t compete on Top Chef like other DineAmic chefs Fabio Viviani (Siena Tavern) and Katsuji Tanabe (Barrio).
Diners won’t find fancy presentations at Bandit. They’ve converted the kitchen, which was more set up for fine dining food, into a space that’s more reminiscent of a short-order kitchen. Burgers, sandwiches, and hot dogs should be part of the menu. Brunch and breakfast favorites like pancakes, waffles, and French toast will be incorporated into desserts.
There will be a playful, nostalgic element that also extends to the drinks. Cheap domestic beers may be served in chalices. Fancy champagnes could be poured into mugs. Servers may pour a cocktail from a Thermos. These elements may remind customers of dive bars, though it’s hard to describe any watering hole along Randolph Street is a true dive, the kind of bar with sticky floors and PBR. Most dive bars don’t have Tiffany chandeliers like they will at Bandit. The dive bar element is more from the lighting and vintage signage: Expect neon and twinkle lighting.
“You might see this lighting at a dive or college dorm,” Rekhson said. “You might have had cocktails in a setting like this.”
Design wise, they’ve demolished Gideon Sweet’s old bar to build a smaller version of the bar at Bar Siena. They’ve also moved the bar away from the window toward the kitchen. There’s also a DJ booth and a space for live music.
Come back for more info as June approaches. Crain’s first reported the story.