Good news from the West Loop: Bad Hunter, the former Eater 38 Randolph Street restaurant that closed after a November fire, is on target to reopen in early June. Reconstruction is to the point where management is back holding meetings inside the two-level space. Bad Hunter, from Heisler Hospitality, gained popularity among vegetarians and vegans as a restaurant that had plenty of meat-free options.
At the same time the restaurant also satisfied omnivores, making it a hot reservation on trendy Randolph Restaurant Row. Even Chicago Bulls star Lauri Markkanen and his vegan wife, Verna Aho, dined there. Heisler’s co-founder Matt Eisler said they’re putting on the finishing touches and are about four weeks from reopening at 802 W. Randolph Street.
“We should consider ourselves lucky,” Eisler said. “A lot of fires of this magnitude lead to places being closed for a year or more.”
At first, Heisler wanted to quickly reopen, but after talking to the insurance company and consulting with other parties, the opening was delayed. The space should feel the same to customers as it did before the fire. The second-floor “Herbarium” private event space has been rebuilt. The restaurant’s plants that were housed inside Heisler’s corporate offices will return. Eisler said they just made a few upgrades to the kitchen.
Eisler added he wasn’t privy to damage estimates, as that’s in the hands of insurance adjusters. He did stress how important it was to have strong insurance to help his company and employees cope with the closure. Most of Bad Hunter’s staff will return to their jobs, and many of them have been working at other Heisler restaurants and bars.
Chicago’s restaurant and bar industry has been supportive for Heisler as it recovers from the fire. That goes back to the night of the blaze when staff at Hogsalt Hospitality’s Maude’s Liquor Bar took in Bad Hunter workers and fed them down the street. The support continues this weekend in Logan Square as Lost Lake, the popular tiki bar, will host a Bad Hunter pop-up on Saturday and Sunday. Bad Hunter’s bar staff, including bar manager Vinny Starble, have toured the country during the last six months to hold pop-ups. Bad Hunter is billing the Lost Lake event as a way to say goodbye to favorites on the Bad Hunter cocktail list as they make room for new drinks. They’ll also preview those new concoctions. Lost Lake chef Fred Noinaj is also paying homage to Bad Hunter with an inspired menu with items like a sweet potato and mushroom dumpling, french fries with a ramp ranch, and a pork rillette.
As for a silver lining, Eisler said Bad Hunter is getting the spring opening that the company originally wanted. The restaurant opened in whatever season Chicago felt like observing in October 2016. Chef Dan Snowden will hopefully get to incorporate all the ramps he wants, along with other spring produce when the restaurant reopens. Using his time away from Bad Hunter, Snowden started serving N.Y.-style pizzas next door at Heisler’s bar Lone Wolf.
Eisler feels Bad Hunter is in a good place. More Chicago restaurants are featuring vegetable-focused menus, including Clever Rabbit in Wicker Park and Pacific Standard Time in River North. Eisler said Bad Hunter was “ahead of the curve” when it opened.
“It’s a great time to be a restaurant like Bad Hunter right now,” he said.
Check back from more details on Bad Hunter’s return in the coming weeks and read the menu for this weekend’s pop-up below. It goes from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Good Drinker in Paradise Pop-up Menu
Spicy Carrot Cooler — La Troussepinette Blanc, Blanco Tequila, Giffard Banana, Carrot, Lemon, Pineapple, Jamaican Jerk Bitters
Topo Americano — Cocchi Rosa, Byrrh, Hendricks Gin, Key Lime Cordial, Topo Chico
Sloe Fashioned — Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Coconut, Sloe Gin
Silken Sunrise — Santa Teresa 1796,Tofu, Masala, Bual Madeira, Leblon Cachaca, Giffard Banana, Jamaican Rum *Also available as large format
Ursula — Lustau Vermut Blanco, Botanist Gin, Blanche Apple Brandy, Muscadet, Kombu
Re:Birth — Nigori Sake, St. George Pear Brandy, Chamomile Grappa, Singani, Blueberry Sage Tea
Bitter Berry — Aperol, Campari, Strawberry, Sparkling Wine
Coffee — Aperol, Don Ciccio Cersaum, Coffee, Sparkling Wine
GOOD DRINKER IN PARADISE
Beer and a shot of Bitter Berry or Coffee Amaro
Topo Chico and a shot of Bitter Berry or Coffee Amaro