Bad Hunter, the acclaimed veggie-friendly West Loop restaurant, survived a massive fire in November 2018, one that kept the chic spot along Randolph Restaurant Row closed for seven months. Despite the resiliency from staff, the restaurant’s owners at Heisler Hospitality announced Tuesday that COVID-19 had forced Bad Hunter to permanently close.
Heisler does have good news, as they plan on opening a Logan Square pizzeria. Pizza Lobo has taken over the former Big & Little’s, 3000 W. Fullerton Avenue. The space has a 4,000-square-foot patio, but they’ll start only with takeout and delivery when they open in late July. A spokesperson says the timing of the opening and closing is coincidental, as Heisler had been planning the pizzeria for months. They started construction last week, and expect major changes to the space, according to a spokesperson.
Without a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, which would allow restaurants to open a full capacity, Heisler didn’t think Bad Hunter could survive. The city currently allows indoor dining at 25 percent capacity for dining rooms. Restaurants can also serve on patios, as long as social distancing rules apply. On Friday, Randolph Street’s service drives were closed off the vehicular traffic, allowing tables and chairs outside. However, the space in front of Bad Hunter was conspicuously quiet, foreshadowing Tuesday’s closing announcement.
Bad Hunter’s name stands out in a sea of terrible ones. It’s a reference to a vegetable friendly menu that was born out of necessity. Tempura lemons and other creative fare made it a plant-lined place where omnivores could find burgers while meat-free diners could find plenty to eat. The second-floor private event space also was popular. Heisler says all private events have been cancelled and parties will see deposits refunded.
Heisler still has a West Loop presence at Lone Wolf, its cleaned-up dive bar on Randolph. That’s where Bad Hunter chef Dan Snowden concentrated his efforts since March when the pandemic shut down dine-in restaurants. Snowden developed a New York-style pizzeria takeout operation based out of Lone Wolf, and response was positive. Instead of relying on the bar’s small kitchen, they’re opening a Logan Square pizzeria. Besides the pies, the menu will feature duck fat-confit chicken wings. That technique provides for juicier wings, something the staff at Table, Donkey, and Stick had been using for its pandemic pizza pop-up with delicious results. A full menu and drink options are yet to come.
Bad Hunter staff was notified of the closing last week, and Heisler hopes to employ them at the company’s other bars, venues like Pub Royale, Queen Mary, Revel Room, Estereo, and Sportsman’s Club. Former workers with benefits will keep health insurance until the end of July, according to a news release.
Big & Little’s opened its Logan Square location in late 2018. The fast-casual mini-chain has locations in River North, Wicker Park, Lakeview, and at Midway International Airport. This was the first with a full bar.