Bandit, a new bar and restaurant that’s a temple to nostalgia, opens Monday on Randolph Restaurant Row in the West Loop. It’s the former Gideon Sweet/Graham Elliot Bistro at 841 W. Randolph Street. Reservations are online.
Customers familiar with the space’s past incarnations will see major changes. The bar, which used to be on the east wall, has been demolished and replaced by a U-shaped bar moved away from the wall. DineAmic Hospitality has added TVs above the bar and retro beer signage. The vibe is like a college party, but with more to offer than cheap pizza and flat beer.
Nostalgia sells, as shown by the surge in pop-up bars using pop-culture themes. But there needs to be a balance, as DineAmic’s David Rekhson and Lucas Stoioff don’t want to come off as gimmicky. Stoioff happily showed off Bandit’s bathrooms. Eclectic restrooms are a staple of DineAmic restaurants like Bar Siena down the street on Randolph. The women’s bathroom is dedicated to singer Justin Timberlake with a collage of teen and entertainment magazine cutouts from the ‘90s and ‘00s covering the walls. The art chronicles JT’s career. The men’s bathroom is dedicated to singer Britney Spears and decorated in the same manner. There’s even a “hit me baby one more time” urinal cake, a reference to Spears’s breakthrough 1998 hit, Hit Me Baby One More Time.
Quirky is good, but “we don’t want this to be a museum,” Rekhson said. From a design point of view, the open kitchen takes up a lot of space in the middle of the dining room. It’s designed for a celebrity chef like Graham Elliot who held court in the space. The kitchen didn’t necessarily vibe with the laid-back atmosphere DineAmic was trying to convey. But ownership brainstormed and hired chef Shayne Graybeal (Sable, Bin 36). The result is classic American food using ingredients like caviar and dry-aged beef. But they’ve given it a playful twist. For example, a giant burger made of Slagel Farms beef detaches into smaller sliders with griddled onions and bacon jam.
They’re still working on a courtyard behind the restaurant which has a European feel. Next year, they hope to knock down the western wall which will reveal stairs leading to the second floor. Right now, it’s unused office space, but DineAmic wants to redecorate and add more dining seats. It would also be ideal for private events, according to management.
This is DineAmic’s second West Loop restaurant, and Stoioff and Rekhson said the neighborhood will continue to transform. They’re not about to let Randolph Street go cookie cutter. There’s a fear that high real estate prices will mean only large conglomerates will be able to sustain restaurants in the area. Stoioff said it doesn’t matter who runs a restaurant as long as it’s a quality project.
“At the end of the day this is a business of having fun,” Stoioff said.
Bandit opens on Monday. Reservations are available at the restaurant’s website or via OpenTable.