A new bar, restaurant, and lounge inspired by fancy ski resorts is coming this summer to River North. Chalet, the first solo project from newish restaurant group HiFi Hospitality, aims to offer a vacation of sorts for Chicagoans long grounded by the pandemic with two floors of cabin-tinged decor, seasonal cocktails, and a menu that draws on West Coast cuisine. Operators hope to debut in early June at 228 W. Chicago Avenue.
The space is the former Farmhouse, the gastropub famous for its decadent cheese curds before closing in July 2020. Chalet’s operators hope to create a cozy, communal feeling of a lodge nestled among snowy peaks in Aspen with an Instagram-friendly ski lift on the first floor, a sleek stone bar, and a California-style dishes designed for sharing. Partner Sam Egar says Chalet’s style of food will be comparable to the West Coast approach seen at Pacific Standard Time — One Off Hospitality Group’s restaurant that closed to make room for a new location of Avec.
That restaurant featured a seafood-heavy menu with lots of fresh produce. Egar isn’t yet ready to announce who will helm the kitchen, but promises a “very skilled executive chef who just left one of the most noteworthy restaurants in Chicago.”
The venue plays on the notion of “après-ski,” or activities for skiers — namely eating, drinking, and socializing — to entertain themselves after quitting the slopes for the day. It’s an idea that’s familiar to Chicago diners thanks to Swift & Sons’ Yurt Village pop-up in Fulton Market, a Après-Ski Rooftop Takeover at mammoth food hall Time Out Market Chicago, and a ski-lodge-and-chalet pop-up at Bandit and Bar Siena in West Loop.
Chalet staff will tweak cocktail options based on the weather, with colorful, fruity, spritzy drinks in the summer and boozy tummy-warmers in winter like mulled wine and spiked hot chocolate. Customers can also expect a rotating seasonal menu of craft and micro-brews from breweries in Colorado and on the West Coast.
The 2,200-square-foot first floor space will house the dining room, outfitted with modern furniture on expansive wooden floors and knotty pine accents throughout. Operators plan to use the second floor as a lounge with late-night hours and low-set tables and chairs in a 1,900 square-foot space. They hope the lounge will be a fun and lively spot in an area that’s home to a high concentration of Millennials but plan to keep the festivities to a dull roar. Party-averse patrons don’t need to worry about booming club music and people dancing on tables, Egar says.
HiFi Hospitality is an evolution of HiFi Social, an events company focused on entertainment and travel for college students. The brand had produced about 300 events a year in various cities prior to the pandemic, but the realities of the virus forced mass cancelations and prompted the team to reassess its focus. Now that vaccination rates are increasing in Chicago, Egar and his colleagues are betting that locals and tourists will want to get out of the house and celebrate.
“Taking on Chalet was us looking ahead to the future, believing that everything is going to work out and we’re all going to get past this,” he says.
Chalet, 228 W. Chicago Avenue, Scheduled to open in early June.