In a major change of direction, the Ace Hotel Chicago will soon welcome Alinea into its ground-floor restaurant space in Fulton Market. The existing all-day restaurant, City Mouse, will close Sunday, October 18. City Mouse and its casual menu (featuring items like its gas station sandwich with a thick hash brown medallion between English Muffins splattered with grape jelly) will be replaced by coursed-out dinners from three-Michelin-starred Alinea.
The Alinea stint at the Ace, at least initially, will be three months and start in November. City Mouse has a patio along its sidewalk with fire pits, which is conducive to safer COVID-19 dining. Alinea Group’s Nick Kokonas tells Eater the company will announce details of its winter pop-up next week.
City Mouse had been with the Ace Hotel from the start, opening in August 2017. The Ace, a boutique hotel chain, brought on Jason Vincent to curate its food program and to create the restaurant. Vincent and his team had opened their first restaurant, Giant, the year before and critics bestowed the Logan Square restaurant with positive press making Giant one of the hardest reservations in the city. At the Ace, Vincent brought on Pat Sheerin as City Mouse’s executive chef. Sheerin was the chef at Trencherman, a popular restaurant that’s closed inside a space that’s been a revolving door since.
Ace’s management blames COVID-19 for City Mouse’s demise. A rep stressed that the closure wasn’t to make room for Alinea and that it was only coincidence that the hotel brokered a deal to use its soon-to-be vacant space. Before the pandemic, West Loop and Fulton Market were popular areas during the day for workers with laptops. The Ace and City Mouse served these customers, along with other cafes and coffeeshops nearby. But companies like Google, which has a Chicago office across the street from the Ace, have since told employees to stay home. That’s kept potential customers away and spaces like City Mouse slower.
Reacting to the pandemic and the low confidence in indoor dining, Alinea had been serving rooftop meals in Fulton Market in a space across the street from Roister and Aviary. That residency, which started in August, wrapped up earlier this month.
Vincent did not respond to a request for comment. Earlier this week, as the Tribune notes, he announced plans for a food truck that would serve a combination of dishes from Giant and his Bucktown restaurant, Chef’s Special Cocktail Bar. They’ll also have new dishes, like pizza, plus alcoholic drinks. Vincent tells Block Club Chicago that the truck is a way to widen his customer base and sell more food during this tough time as they’re “still hemorrhaging money.” Chef’s Special, which opened in January, is especially struggling. Vincent tells Block Club that it’s “$1 million dollars in the hole.” The pandemic shut the state’s dining rooms down in March, stripping Chef’s Special of customers during its first few months after opening. That revenue is crucial for long-term success.
Meanwhile, customers have until Sunday to visit City Mouse before Alinea takes over.