When Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group vacated its Gold Coast space in January, it left a vacancy in one of Chicago’s most prestigious neighborhoods and inside the former Esquire Theater, a building that dates back to 1938. Three months after the Del Frisco’s closure, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant, the suburban chain founded in 2005 in Orland Park, announces plans to take over the posh space that housed Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House and its Esquire Champagne Room on the third floor.
Management is shooting for an early fall opening. This location, 58 E. Oak Street, is not only Cooper Hawk’s first city of Chicago restaurant in its 14-year history, but it’s also the company’s first urban space. Instead of being found in a suburban strip mall and spread throughout a single level, this Gold Coast location will be different and stacked vertically to fit amongst the trendy boutiques near Chicago’s famed Michigan Avenue retail district.
Cooper’s Hawk has 35 locations in nine states, mostly in the Midwest. But it has locations as far south as Florida and as far east as Virginia. There are plans to open six locations in 2019, with the Gold Coast being the final new restaurant opening for the company for the year. Brewpubs have become popular in America’s suburbs, and Cooper’s Hawk takes that same formula and applies it to wine, serving upscale food as a compliment. The chain also runs a popular wine club with 370,000 members nationwide. The club offers special merchandise, discounts, and other opportunities.
The layout won’t be the only thing different about the Chicago location, Cooper’s Hawk founder and CEO Tim McEnery said. The prime city location will give them a chance to experiment not only with the decor, but with the menu. McEnery said the space will unlock “unlimited creativity” for his staff. The space will serve as an ideal introduction for Chicagoans and tourists who aren’t familiar with Cooper’s Hawk. As soon as Del Frisco’s announced its pending departure in the fall, McEnery made a call to his real estate team.
“I had been an admirer of the space for years,” McEnery said.
This space won’t have the room to produce wine like the suburban locations, but McEnery is excited to build a special wine tasting room. He said the only comparable Chicago location is City Winery in West Loop. The Gold Coast restaurant will also include a three-story wine tower, open kitchen, and a store.
The restaurant hosts special events for club members bringing in celebrity chefs like Top Chef alum Richard Blais. A Chicago location in a prominent neighborhood is a resource for Cooper’s Hawk and would allow it to throw more lavish events, a Cooper’s Hawk spokesperson pointed out.
Del Frisco’s, a Texas chain, struggled to find its footing in Chicago. Perhaps McEnery, an Orland Park native, will use his local roots to his advantage. Cooper’s Hawk Chicago should open in the fall.