PB&J — or Pizza, Beer, and Jukebox — the new West Loop restaurant that’s replacing Fulton Market Company, debuts today with plenty of pies, brews, tunes, and a few changes since the spot was first announced.
Co-owners and brothers Matthew and Josh McCahill, who previously managed nightclubs until the pandemic brought Chicago nightlife to a screeching halt in March, want the space to be a lot of things: a family-friendly spot for pizza, a haunt for music fans to set the mood with a familiar TouchTunes Jukebox, and a destination for its attention-grabbing $350 “Golden Goose,” a loaf-sized peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich made with edible gold leaf, Maison Dutriez Red Currant Jam (the world’s most expensive jelly), New Zealand Manuka Honey, and Adams All-Natural peanut butter. It needs to be ordered at least 24 hours in advance, and those who order it will take home the remaining jelly (about half, the brothers say) in its crystal jar.
Ultimately, the sandwich’s steep price isn’t representative of the rest of the menu. There are 10 speciality Neopolitan-style pies, which range from $12 to $20, like the “Brie Castle,” (caramelized onion, brie, mozzarella, parsley) that the brothers say evokes cult fast food spot favorite White Castle. Other bar-friendly options include sandwiches, salads, and a “Keep On Jammin’ Burger” (beet-onion jam, gruyere, crispy green tomato, bacon aioli, sesame bun). Beer options include more than 20 drafts, plus a few canned brews and White Claw hard seltzer. Indecisive types can order a pre-set flight of five beers for $12.
At 3,000 square feet, the space can seat 299 indoors, but like all Chicago restaurants, dining rooms are currently limited to 25 percent capacity due to the coronavirus. There’s patio seating coming soon too, according to the McCahills. Inside, customers can expect bright beer and music-themed neons, a painted wall of song lyrics meant to inspire jukebox selections, and a mural of a CTA train.
Luxury spins on humble foodstuffs aren’t all that unusual, but in the midst of a global pandemic and economic recession when jobless claims are reaching record numbers, some locals were unimpressed by the “Golden Goose” concept. Among them was Taylor Rae Botticelli, a Chicago hospitality worker who called the idea “tone deaf” in a Facebook group for local service industry members. She and numerous others also expressed concern about the names of some of the cocktails, particularly a drink named “Nothing Matters,” which came across as caustic in light of Black Lives Matter, which may now be the largest protest movement in U.S. history.
After her post began receiving attention in the group, Botticelli says Matthew McCahill reached out to her in a private message to discuss her concerns and elaborate on his own family’s struggles with housing insecurity. Both say the conversation was productive, as Botticelli explained why good intentions don’t always cancel out insensitive comments or jokes.
“She said, ‘you’ve got to look at what you’re doing,’” says Matthew McCahill. “She mentioned the ‘Nothing Matters’ cocktail and I said, ‘Oh wow, we wrote this menu months ago,’ but when she pointed it out, it made sense and I thanked her for that... We don’t want to offend anybody, we care about everybody’s feelings.”
He says the cocktail’s name was originally inspired by a lyric from Queen mega-hit “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but it has since been renamed “the Pasmo.” The McCahills also plan to donate proceeds from at least the first 10 “Golden Goose” sales to Chicago HOPES for Kids, a local non-profit that offers educational support for children in shelters.
Botticelli says she was surprised that he reached out at all, and that he was willing to listen and acknowledge his own blind spots. She wants to see action to go with their discussion, and for the hospitality industry as a whole take significant steps toward addressing a long legacy of racism and sexism.
“As white people in the service industry, or really anywhere, we owe it to everyone around us to step up and be better, really thinking about impact versus intent,” she says. “I get that [he] may not have intended to come off as tone deaf, or insensitively naming these cocktails and things the way [he] did, but it wouldn’t take too much to step back and say ‘okay, how is this going to look?’”
Matthew McCahill says he appreciates that Botticelli responded to his initial message. “I wish I was more aware, but sometimes things miss you when you’re moving a mile a minute,” he says. “Everybody needs to be thoughtful right now — that includes us.”
PB&J opens Tuesday in West Loop. Updated menus are available on the restaurant’s website.
PB&J, 205 N. Peoria Street, Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.