Restaurateur John Kunkel says he’s been traveling around the country over the last five years in scouting new locations for Yardbird, a restaurant serving fried chicken, deviled eggs, and grits, biscuits dropped inside luxurious spaces.
After debuting in Miami with a Top Chef alum in the kitchen earning a place on the 2012 Bon Appetit list of 50 Best New Restaurants, Kunkel expanded to Los Angeles, D.C., Las Vegas, Dallas, and internationally to Singapore. Add Chicago to the list as Yardbird has arrived on the Near Side, in between River North and Streeterville at the corner of Wabash and Grand. The official opening day is Friday, October 21.
Kunkel founded a company, 50 Eggs, that includes Yardbird and five other restaurants that haven’t made it to Chicago. He stresses that he’s “anti-chain” and that his company plans to spend plenty of time engaged within Chicago’s communities.
“Chain is a dirty word for us,” he tells Eater. “Each restaurant and menu is curated to the city where we open. We take a humble approach in wanting to appeal to locals and be a part of the community.”
Beyond Yardbird’s signature items, there are also dishes exclusive to each location. For example, in Chicago, there’s a new porchetta dish with parmesan white beans. Yardbird’s origins might be more with Southern cuisine and soul food, but they’ve expanded to include other comfort food.
There’s also a bourbon room that “floats” above the bar and the restaurant. Look for plenty of whiskey drinks including an Old Fashioned made with bacon-infused Jim Beam bourbon. The bourbon room is available for private events — it can be had for a party of eight starting at $2,500.
Rockwell Group has designed the space, and visitors will be lying if they’re reminded of P.F. Chang’s the space’s previous tenant. Tour the space and check out some food photos below.
Yardbird, 530 N. Wabash Avenue, (312) 999-9760, open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends; weekend brunch from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.