Earlier this month, chef Jonathon Sawyer launched his first Chicago restaurant inside the Four Seasons Hotel on Michigan Avenue. Sawyer, who made a name for himself in Cleveland at restaurants like Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat, won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2015. His new venture, Adorn, replaces Allium, the hotel’s restaurant that lasted eight years.
While the space’s previous tenant opted for bold blues and golds in some spaces and dark leather and wood with colorful wall art, Adorn sports a much more contemporary feel, with smooth surfaces and an unfussy color palette of white, black, and grey.
Adorn represents a new chapter for Sawyer after he closed his flagship Ohio restaurant in March. The chef’s return to his home state (he’s originally from suburban McHenry) is now marred by a resurgence in the novel coronavirus another ban on dine-in service that will go into effect on Friday. In an interview earlier in October before the ban was announced, Sawyer said he aimed to start carryout and delivery operations in the coming weeks. Reps have not yet responded to a request for more information in light of the new ban.
The new restaurant gives Sawyer a chance to stretch himself culinarily. He feels that Chicagoans are more open to risks than Cleveland diners, a shift he describes as liberating. Until now, Sawyer’s restaurants have all been predicated on either a single place of origin or cooking over a wood fire. At Adorn, Sawyer’s inspirations come from travels to Italy, France, and Japan, with offerings such as triple-cooked whole eggplant (za’atar, chermula, chick peas) and lobster and spaghetti “Joe Beef” style (bucatini pasta, cognac butter and tarragon, bacon lardon).
That sense of freedom comes across in Adorn’s bread and edible candle service, a plate of house-baked pita and a seeded cracker with a candle made of aged beef suet, complete with a wick and flame. Sawyer describes the scent as savory and umami. He is always pleased by that revelatory moment when diners realize they can eat the candle too.
The open-plan, multi-room dining spaces (including lounges and a private dining room) are outfitted with sleek and monochromatic furniture and art. It also features an enormous square bar that seats 120 in total, situated beneath a sparkling, ultra-modern chandelier. The restaurant and design are the result of the hotel’s massive renovation that began in September 2019. The pandemic has caused significant challenges for downtown hotels, as conventioneers, tourists, and office workers are staying home. Despite the difficulty of the moment, Sawyer is determined to remain optimistic.
“My belief is that it’s tough to open a restaurant at any time,” he says. “This is my 18th or 19th opening — they’re all different, and they all have an immense amount of stress and fun and adversity that you have to deal with... But no matter what’s going on around you, which is now more complicated than ever, you have to continue to believe in your team and your vision every day.”
Sawyer is involved in another Chicago project, Shake It. There hasn’t been an update on the burger restaurant since last year when owners announced Sawyer’s involvement.
Take a look around Adorn in the photographs below.
Adorn, 120 E. Delaware Place inside the Four Seasons Hotel, Open 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. (breakfast), 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (lunch), 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. (dinner) daily.