There’s a property at the southeast corner of Elston and Division along the Chicago River in West Town that drivers zip past as they cross over to Goose Island. The Riverside property seems uniquely situated to cater to social distancing and has been home to clubs like Estate Ultra Bar, Slow Down! Life’s Too Short, and the Boondocks. Azul Mariscos + Muelle opened Thursday at 1177 N. Elston Avenue. The owners, SocialLight Group (Trophy Room) also ran Estate.
Seafood inspired Nayarit — a state in Western Mexico — isn’t new for the area. Just travel a few blocks west along Ashland Avenue, and Chicagoans will find El Barco Mariscos, Alegrias Seafood, and Mariscos la Costa. Azul’s chef, Michael Hernandez is a South Side native. He ran Diez y Ocho, a Pilsen burger restaurant that closed in 2017. Grilled King crab legs and whole red snapper are among the entree choices.
Azul’s space distinguishes itself. There are tables set up along the water where customers can sip cocktails held in clay vessels made by youth enrolled in Project FIRE, a not for profit that helps youth heal from gun violence. The kits are making clay pots and cups for the drink with a portion of the drink’s sales donated back to the charity. The space offers multiple outdoor areas. Meanwhile, indoor dining restrictions brought by COVID-19 are terrifying to restaurant owners in Chicago. Many don’t know how they’ll survive when freezing temperatures keep diners from craving patio seating. Keeping that in mind, Azul’s management wants to the venue to become an all-season destination.
There are multiple levels inside, including a large rooftop bar. Management says it’s among the largest in Chicago and should open next week. Goose Island is primed for development if the controversial Lincoln Yards project gets off the ground. If Azul succeeds, they’ll be seen as neighborhood pioneers.
Check out the photos of the food and space below. Azul is now open.
Azul Mariscos + Muelle, 1177 N. Elston Avenue, (773) 770-3766; reservations via OpenTable; open 4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Hours should expand in early fall.