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A restaurant door with a small overhang and a large sign.
Aikana opens tonight in the West Loop.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

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Latin Fusion Arrives in Former Home of Yugen and Grace in West Loop

Aikana serves food inspired by cuisine from Mexico to Argentina in a jungle setting

The West Loop space formerly filled by Yugen and, before that, Grace has a new occupant. But Aikana Chicago, with food inspired by Latin America, from Mexico to Patagonia, will, its owners insist, be completely unlike its predecessors — or, in fact, anything else that’s ever been seen in Chicago before. The restaurant opens tonight.

“It will be a brand of its own,” says co-owner Morgan Olszewski, who was previously brought on as the general manager of Yugen by her father, owner Michael Olszewski. “It cannot be compared to anything.”

Currascaria with waguy beef, tubers, peanut chimichurri, arepa, chilera
octopus with mussels, moqueca, tomato, onion, cassava, peppers
Jungle Phoenix (Rums, Campari Cocktail, Clarified Pineapple, Lemon Air )
Lulo gelato sweet potato cake, tapioca crisps

Aikana’s food and drink menus are incorporate Latin American ingredients. Clockwise from top left: churrascaria with Wagyu beef, octopus with mussels and leche de tigre, lulo gelato with sweet potato cake and tapioca crisps, the Jungle Phoenix cocktail (rums, campari cocktail, clarified pineapple, lemon air).

Raul Carmona, the other co-owner, worked with chef Alexander Quintero on the menu. Carmona is from Puerto Rico, Quintero is from Colombia, and both previously lived in Costa Rica. They took the ingredients they liked most from various countries in Central and South America and combined them into new dishes, for instance, a pork shank marinated in Colombian spices and cooked like chifrijo, a Costa Rican pork and bean stew, or octopus cooked with Peruvian leche de tigre and garnished with serrano peppers from Mexico.

The bar, run by mixologist Benjamin Schiller, similarly incorporates the flavors of Latin America. Chicago, Carmona says, is a city that likes its Old Fashioneds and vanilla, caramel, and and oaky flavors in its cocktails. Aikana’s bar, however, will use lots of rum and mezcal, with citrus flavors and garnishes, and guava and starfruit syrup for sweetness.

A row of tables with green chairs in front of a beige banquette. Prints of plants hang on the wall.
The decor has been described by one of the owners as “jungle meeting Versace.”
A long table held up between three marble pillars. Lamps and greenery hang from the ceiling.

But if the influence of one country dominates, it’s Brazil. The name of the restaurant, Aikana, comes from an Indigenous people who live in southwest Brazil, near the Bolivian border. “They’re known for being resilient and brave, a warrior tribe,” says Carmona. He describes the decor as “jungle meeting Versace,” meaning a lot of deep green upholstery, prints, and plants with gold accents.

The dining room will seat 98 people, with room for 25 more at the bar. Late at night, Aikana will transform into a cocktail lounge, open till 2 a.m. with an abbreviated menu of bar snacks.

“Anyone who has seen the previous entities would not recognize the space,” says Olszewski. “It’s a fantastic space to call home.”

Aikana Chicago, 652 W. Randolph Street, Open 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday, Reservations via OpenTable.

Grace

652 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60661 (817) 877-3388

Aikana Chicago

652 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60661

Yugen

652 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL Visit Website
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