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Etta River North debuts Thursday.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

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Inside Etta River North, Bringing a Neighborhood Favorite Closer to Downtown

Etta River North will have desserts from Aya Pastries and exclusive item not available in Bucktown

The ownership behind Etta in Bucktown is tweaking its formula and opening a second location on Thursday: Etta River North opens with a cafe stocked with baked goods from dazzling pastry chef Aya Fukai of Aya Pastry in West Town. Ever since it opened in 2018, the original restaurant has amassed a following of families gathering for brunch on weekend mornings, with the growing patio packed with friends catching up over drinks on the evenings.

Etta will remain focused on food made in a hearth (What If Syndicate’s Gold Coast steakhouse, Maple & Ash, featured wood-fired steaks, as well). But Chef Danny Grant says Etta River North’s menu will have a few exclusive items that he hopes will attract Bucktown fans to the new location.

Etta wants to give River North a option for lunch.
There’s plenty of seating for those who’d rather eat outside.

For example, Etta River North is taking its pizza dough and using it as a base for sandwiches. It’s produced “the perfect BLT,” Grant says, nothing the bread features a crunchy exterior and is light and airy inside. The bacon is smoked pork belly with a maple and pepper glaze.

Etta River North will also have more of a lunch focus. The pandemic has kept workers out of downtown office buildings, so they’re eating lunch at home. Etta wants to give River North an afternoon option.

Heidi Lightner Architects (Pilot Project Brewing) designed the contemporary space.
Flower-like light fixtures play off the floral wallpaper.

In Bucktown, Grant says he was intimidated by the neighborhood, unsure how it would receive Etta. A restaurant of that size and price point was uncommon in an area dominated by fast casual restaurants and smaller bistros. But Etta has enjoyed success and has provided Grant with “the most fun I’ve had in the last few years.”

In River North they’ll serve more seafood. There’s also a bakery cafe with Aya’s popular baked goods. During the pandemic, Aya Pastry has enjoyed success with customers lining up in West Town for peanut-butter-and-jelly cookies, and a cookie that’s a loving tribute to the Girl Scouts’ Samoa. Aya supplies goods to Passion House Coffee and Olivia’s Market in Bucktown. Now River North has access to those item. Etta’s coffee will be provided by La Colombe.

Etta doesn’t have giant windows that swing out, but it does have a patio the wraps around Clark and Huron. Grant is excited to expand, but is also conscious of the safety issues associated with the pandemic. Etta Bucktown received criticism over the weekend from workers who wanted better communication about COVID-19 policies, and wanted management to close the restaurant after a worker tested positive. Grant says they’re committed to safety by testing workers regularly and cleaning the restaurant. They want to keep the restaurant open to provide jobs.

Check out the space below. Grant also has plans to open Etta locations in LA and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Etta, 700 N. Clark Street, Open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

The space feels casual and modern.

Safety measures include plexiglass dividers between booths and spaced-out tables.

Light wood and tall ceilings lend an airy sensibility to the room.

Chicago artist Christian Paz painted these stairway murals.

Etta River North

700 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60645 312-766-4444 Visit Website

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