Tyler Nickson’s father, Joel, sometimes will crack a joke about how it’s a curse that his son followed his parents’ footsteps into the restaurant industry. Tyler Nickson grew up working at Wishbone, the celebrated West Loop restaurant near the United Center and he’s seen celebrity customers like Michael Jordan and Kanye West walk through. Nickson is bringing some of that cred to West Town where he and his partners hope to open his new restaurant, Three House, on March 1 inside the former Bar Biscay space at 1450 W. Chicago Avenue.
This is a breakfast and lunch spot with counter service focusing on getting customers in and out quickly. Special dinners will be added eventually, but right now Nickson doesn’t want to expose customers and staff to unnecessary contact during a pandemic. He wants people out with their food within 10 minutes and grab-and-go service will get customers out even quicker. The menu includes empanadas and a Parisian baguette sandwich with cultured butter, smoked salmon, and jamon. Also, look for a cafe con leche French toast and smash burgers to complement breakfast bowls with green garlic farro, a duck egg, and roasted mushrooms. Beverage wise, there’s coffee, smoothies, and juices. Everything is designed to hold up well while transported in a car, Nickson says.
This isn’t fast food. Much like Flour Power, a pasta shop just west of Three House on Chicago Avenue, it’s about showing customers that they can have a quality meal made by a chef — not processed food from a corporate entity — at an affordable price.
“The food will be very good,” Nickson says. “We’re going to have the best bacon, egg, and cheese in the city.”
The breads will be provided by Aya Pastry, the Eater 38 bakery also in West Town. Nickson says he also wants to bring back a focus on sustainability, using local ingredients and reducing waste. Being green was a popular creed for restaurants before the pandemic, but the use of those buzzwords has fallen as industry workers fight for survival. Increased takeout has produced mountains of plastic packages and Nickson wants to push back.
Nickson is also working with Tyler LeBlanc, the former chef de cuisine at Michelin-starred Schwa (the Wicker Park restaurant where the owners of Flour Power previously worked). Schwa is known for bending the rules, with the cooks acting as servers, and once in a while they’ll enjoy an adult beverage with diners. Nickson says as fine dining restaurants go, Schwa is notoriously an outlier to the toxic culture that he abhors.
Beyond working at Wishbone, Nickson’s worked at the Duck Inn and Coda di Volpe. He sings the praises of working at Duck Inn, counting chef and owner Kevin Hickey as his mentor. However, the world of fine dining — the home of tasting menus where chefs chase Michelin stars — wasn’t for him. He and LeBlanc worked at Sixteen, the since-rebranded restaurant inside the Trump Tower. In general, the scene’s toxic culture pushed him away and drove him to smaller projects. Nickson has been a private chef that also dabbles in cannabis while working with Herbal Notes, a group that organizes dinner parties with weed-infused food.
Three House will offer a different type of energy as Nickson is teaming up with two boutiques. Chris Russow is the owner of Round Two, a clothing boutique in Wicker Park. Samuel LeBlanc (no relation to the chef with the same last name) owns Half Evil, just a few blocks from the restaurant. He was also involved with Nini’s Deli, helping to build the Cuban restaurant’s trendy mystique within his large network, which includes 35,000 Instagram followers. However, Nickson says LeBlanc had zero idea about the owners beliefs which led Nini’s to close in 2020. Nini’s owners were caught making bigoted remarks on video. LeBlanc helped organize protests that ultimately closed the restaurant.
Half Evil and Round Two have developed a rabid fanbase with customers waiting in lines outside their stores for limited edition clothing. Armed with those connections, when musicians begin touring again after the pandemic, Nickson expects Three House to attract celebrities. And he’s up for the task in entertaining the luminaries and locals who he hopes will patronize the establishment.
“This is going to be a jumping spot, most rappers and athletes — anybody really that has something going for themselves — is probably going to be in here,” Nickson says.
The pandemic has stymied indoor dining, but when it’s safe, Nickson wants to collaborate with other Chicago chefs on popup dinners. The bar area will also get good use and the space has windows that swing out to satisfy the city’s “50 percent rule” where indoor dining is permitted if a half a wall is open to the outdoors and tables are within six feet of the opening. There’s also sidewalk seating and they’ll offer delivery.
Check back for updates as opening date draws near. It’s one of Eater Chicago’s most anticipated restaurant openings of the year.
Three House, 1400 W. Chicago Avenue, scheduled for a March 1 opening.