Don Young is optimistic that diners will return to Downtown Chicago, even as the pandemic has kept office workers and tourists away from the Loop. Young is the chef who helped bring Temporis a Michelin star in West Town, who then moved on to WoodWind on Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Streeterville campus. Young’s latest project is Venteux — a modern French restaurant with oyster bar targeted for a spring opening inside the historic Carbide and Carbon Building off the Mag Mile.
Comfort food is taking center stage for restaurants during the pandemic with kitchens prioritizing transportability instead of culinary creativity. But those familiar with Young know the chef enjoys pushing boundaries with creative kitchen techniques and fun plating. That’s a philosophy that works best when serving dine-in customers, something that might not be an immediate option due to COVID-19. However, Venteux does possess room for a 25-seat sidewalk patio which would enable Young to serve plated meals to seated customers. The chef is unsure if Venteux will offer takeout.
“With the climate right now being so volatile...we have no idea what’s happening in two months,” Young says. “We’ll have some time to come up with some back-up plans because it’s just too early to tell.”
Studio Munge is remodeling the 4,000-square-foot space. This is their first Chicago project. The pandemic has changed the restaurant industry, and there’s worry about Downtown Chicago’s resilience, something that took a hit last week when Macy’s announced the closing of its Water Tower Place store. Young has already seen the impact. He’s been working as a private chef since he laid off at WoodWind.
At Venteux, which replaces Free Rein, Young wants to pull from his experiences at French restaurants Les Nomades and Old Town Brasserie. For example, he’ll prepare a traditional coq au vin, but use rainbow carrots to inject a little color to the plate. Young feels the classic dover sole meuniere is a bit greasy. He’s aiming for a lighter preparation with caper leaves and pickled lemons. French-Vietnamese cuisine will also be featured (Young promises a banh mi on the menu) and so will French-Moroccan food. Young describes the menu as modern French food with midwestern ingredients.
The Carbide and Carbon building opened in 1929. There’s new management for the hotel space, which was most recently known as St. Jane. In October, Pendry Hotels, a California-based company, announced it would take over the building and Pendry Chicago is set to debut this spring. Past management had also announced plans for a rooftop bar, but delays and the pandemic stalled the opening. Young couldn’t provide an update, saying management is still figuring out the space’s future.
Venteux is the first Chicago project from Clique Hospitality, a company with restaurants in San Diego, Las Vegas, and Florida. The company is probably best known for its Vegas venues. Young mentions Lionfish Coastal Cuisine, a restaurant that opened in 2017 in San Diego.
The restaurant will be open all day, and Young is debating creating a bar menu (they’ll have a burger on the menu, regardless). While the restaurant’s focus isn’t fine dining, if there’s demand, Young says he’d like to try out a five-course tasting menu. Young knows the industry is at the mercy of COVID-19, but he’s eager to serve and see customers again.
“I feel very confident we can return,” Young says.
Venteux, inside the Carbide and Carbon building, 230 N. Michigan Avenue, planned for a spring opening.