The owners of the Smith want the opportunity for Chicagoans to get to know their restaurant without any hangups about locations in New York and Washington, D.C. Chicagoans will get their first taste of the River North restaurant this evening when the Smith opens at 400 N. Clark Street.
They feel the River North location is perfect for happy hours, birthday parties, and a pre- or post-show meal. It’s open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. The menu’s a mix of classic American items with a few international dishes weaved in.
Take a tour of the space and check out the food below. But before that, here are five things to know about the New York import. It’s Chicago, so the restaurant shouldn’t be confused with Smyth and the Loyalist, the Michelin-starred spot in Fulton Market.
They Crave Chicago Love
Sure, there’s a New York-Chicago rivalry when it comes to sports and pizza, but the Smith doesn’t want to buy into that competition. Owner/founder Jeff Lefcourt wants to stay humble, hoping River North will welcome the New York import. Whatever reputation the Smith may have in New York and D.C., Lefcourt is hoping Chicago can be separate. They’re stocking local beer and hoping to cater to the local audience.
“We want to be viewed for the first time,” Smith co-founder Jeff Lefcourt said.
The French Fries
What holds the Smith’s menu together is its french fries. Double fired and thin cut (but thicker than a shoe string), the fries are emblematic of what the restaurant yearns to be. Management takes recognizable items and without altering the appearance, they amp the dish up. Management claims it took 20 years to perfect its french fry recipe which uses “special” Idaho potatoes. They’re served with Sir Kensington ketchup.
The Menu’s Evolved
When the Smith first opened in 2007, the menu didn’t include a raw bar, something that’s become popular at the restaurants. Management’s working with Fortune Fish Co. in Chicago to make sure the oysters are up to the same standards as the coasts. They’re using wet-aged beef and working with L&L Packing locally and a farm in Arizona. In Chicago they’ll have pizzas cooked in cast-iron pans. It’s not quite deep dish, it’s not quite New York style.
Executive chef Brian Ellis has been with Smith for 17 years, and Lefcourt said they’ve been able to retain employees thanks to a positive work environment. They offer health care insurance to full-time workers and matching 401K retirement plans.
Finally in Chicago
Smith co-founder Jeff Lefcourt said his team’s been looking at opening a Chicago location for years. They looked at West Loop but felt more comfy in River North.
The Smith, 400 N. Clark Street, (312) 312-5100, reservations via OpenTable, open 5 p.m. to midnight on Sunday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Breakfast, brunch, and lunch soon to come.