Second City, Chicago’s famous comedy troupe, is teaming up with Fifty/50 Restaurant Group to give Old Town a new rooftop bar this summer. It’s called Utopian Tailgate and should open in mid-August above the Starbucks on the Northwest corner of North Avenue and Wells Street. Fifty/50 is also opening its third Roots Handmade Pizza next door, taking over the former Adobo Grill which burned in an August 2015 fire. It was announced back in July.
Amber Lancaster is Utopian Tailgate’s new chef, according to Fifty/50 Restaurant Group co-founder Scott Weiner. Her resume includes stops at Alinea, Sable, Bernie’s Lunch & Supper, and more. The group is still developing the food and drink menus, but Weiner shared one thing: They’re making sure the Bloody Mary is top notch. The rooftop bar’s name is a mix of two of Weiner’s favorite things: Tailgating before Bears football games and before Grateful Dead concerts. The roof deck’s covered portion takes up 3,500 square feet and the outdoor part is 6,500 square feet.
Roots serves Quad Cities-style pizza, a round pie that’s cut into strips and traditionally topped with mozzarella and red sauce. There are locations in West Town and Lincoln Square. Fifty/50 has teamed up with several chefs at Chicago’s top restaurants in recent years to offer special pies from Jimmy Bannos Jr. (Purple Pig), Brian Fisher (Entente), and Charlie McKenna (Lillie’s Q). The Roots kitchen will also serve as the food prep area for the rooftop bar, said Weiner. A larger Roots location in South Loop should open in February. This one will have a retractable roof with two levels.
For those who remember the fire at Adobo Grill three years ago at 1610 N. Wells Street, the damage spread to Second City offices. Weiner said the blaze caused $28 million in damage. Ownership’s been working carefully to rebuild the space for the new Roots pizzeria. Meanwhile, Adobo moved around the corner on North Avenue.
Fifty/50, which started with the Wicker Park sports bar, has evolved to include Roots, Homestead on the Roof in West Town, Steadfast in the Loop, and Apogee/Portsmith in the hotel formerly known as the Dana in River North (it’s now called Eurostars Magnificent Mile after a sale) has several projects in the pipeline.
One of those projects launches Tuesday at the Roots Pizza, 2200 W. Lawrence Avenue, in Lincoln Square. It’s the start of a new Trotter Project Scholar Pizza (tickets are available at the link). Like the chef’s series, this will be a limited pizza special with proceeds going toward Pillars of Excellence, a program that mentors students in the culinary and hospitality industry. But instead of a big-name chef, a student creates the pizza. The first student, Nia Spencer, has created a pie with spinach, red peppers, Korean barbecue sauce, shredded short rib, and mozzarella. She collaborated with Roots’ chef Martin Arellano.
Look for more announcements on new restaurants soon.