A new restaurant and nightlife spot promising live music, a rotating art gallery, and a menu of globally influenced small plates aims to debut this month in River North. The Marvel, the first stand-alone hospitality venture from a longtime local bartender and event promoter, is awaiting city approval for its liquor license but is slated to open just before or after Thanksgiving. It’s inside the former home of 25 Degrees, a burger and drinking spot that closed in June 2020 after nine years at 736 N. Clark Street.
Native Chicagoan Matt Kleinman (Sushi Dokku, Booze Box, Harry’s Velvet Room) wants to turn back the clock and give River North an indie feel. Lately, he feels the tourist-friendly neighborhood has attracted a collection of major chain restaurants and big-name brands. He wants the Marvel to draw the diverse crowd of locals he recalls from his days promoting spots like Funky Buddha Lounge in River West.
“Chicago, to me, is a foodie city with so many different things you can find if you know the right neighborhood,” he says. “We’re trying to present a little of that neighborhood vibe in a more corporate area.”
The Marvel’s food and cocktail menus are still in the works, but kitchen manager Pete Smith (Wells Street Market, Wolfgang Puck Catering) is gearing up for an 11-item opening menu with flavors from Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America. Sample dishes are tamales and fried Peruvian yuquitas with the menu eventually growing. Patrons can expect a full bar, plus a drink menu from Kleinman that will take a similarly international approach with spirits like Japanese whisky.
Expect live musical performances and DJs sets featuring genres like hip-hop, reggae, funk, and soul. Kleinman says he’s already booked a few shows with acts like Furious Styles, a project from local duo Ernie Adam and DJ Shon Dervis.
At 2,700 square feet, the Marvel includes a raised section that will function as a stage and a moveable DJ booth that staff can relocate to make room for larger acts. The space will seat around 100 and has a retractable garage door that Kleinman plans to open when warm weather returns next year. The Marvel has also opted for a neutral color palette with black trim and Venetian plaster so as not to detract from the art gallery curated by Missy Perkins, a local arts event organizer and co-founder of nonprofit Paint The City. Supporting artists is a personal passion for Kleinman as he knows how challenging it is to find success: his parents both pursued art while working full time in other industries.
Ultimately, Kleinman hopes the Marvel will be able to foster the kind of inclusive environment he recalls from years past. “Even when we were throwing underground loft parties as kids, it was about bringing people together,” he says. “There’s an opportunity in the neighborhood to redefine and bring back some of that old Chicago feeling.”
The Marvel, 736 N. Clark Street, Scheduled to open in late November.