One of the signatures of Bonhomme Hospitality, the restaurant group behind Porto and Beatnik, among others, is its elaborately designed interiors, filled with antiques, imported tile, and intricate lighting fixtures, all intended to make customers feel as though they’ve traveled to another time and place without the hassle of an airplane or a TARDIS.
This year, Bonhomme is expanding to two new restaurants in the West Loop intended to evoke Paris and Marco Polo’s Silk Road, a club inspired by the Led Zeppelin song “Kashmir” (which was, in turn, inspired by a trip the band took to Morocco in the ’70s), plus — in what is a logical move, given the group’s interest in travel and culture — a hotel in Galicia in northwest Spain called Casa Beatnik. The two restaurants are on track to open in late summer, while the club should be ready by the holidays. The hotel opened on June 1.
“It’s a busy year,” says Bonhomme’s founder, Daniel Alonso. “But these are all self-inflicted wounds.”
The two restaurants, Bambola and Coquette, will share an address, 1400 W. Randolph Street, but each will have its own entrance and kitchen. Bambola, the larger of the two, has an Italian name — it means “doll” — but aside from that, Alonso says, nothing about it will be very Italian.
“It’s inspired by East-meets-West,” he says, “Italy to Xanadu, the Silk Road romanticism of Marco Polo.” The menu will feature dishes and cooking techniques that traveled back and forth along that old trade route, mainly rice and noodles, with a focus on Turkish and Persian cuisine, though it may travel as far afield as Thailand and Vietnam. There will be an open kitchen with wood- and charcoal-burning ovens, plus a mangal grill for cooking kebabs.
The 7,000-square-foot space will seat 175 and will be filled with a blend of contemporary Italian furniture and Asian antiquities (Alonso has been stocking up for the past 18 months) with an elaborate tiled floor imported from Popham Design in Marrakesh, Morocco. Alonso envisions a space filled with mustards, reds, browns, and blues with a contrast between the rich fabrics of the furniture, the wooden tables, and pattern of the tiles.
Coquette will be, like its name, French. Alonso describes it as “Parisian chic meets provincial splendor.” Erwin Mallet, the chef de cuisine at Michelin-starred Porto, will run the kitchen, serving an array of classic French dishes cooked over wood and charcoal. In terms of style, it will be Bambola’s opposite: pink and white and petite, with seating for 46.
Finally, there is Kashmir, which will open across the street in late 2022. Alonso describes it as a continuation of Bordel, Bonhomme’s Ukrainian Village cocktail bar and cabaret, but bigger and more ambitious. There will be an eclectic roster of performers: jazz musicians, flamenco dancers, burlesque artists, cabaret singers, and magicians. Alonso imagines that the teams at Bordel and Kashmir will work closely together to promote new and established talent.
Alonso’s goal for Bonhomme, he says, has always been to give customers the experience of travel without actual traveling. But while a restaurant meal lasts just three hours at most, the hotel is an all-encompassing experience. Casa Beatnik has restaurants, of course, plus a pool, a spa, a yoga and tai chi studio, and seven acres of grounds, including a working vineyard run by Alonso’s brother. Guests have a choice of staying indoors in suites or in luxury yurts. The hotel is 20 minutes from Santiago de Compostela, a town that has been a destination for Catholic pilgrims since the Middle Ages (it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), but the lovely thing about Galicia, Alonso says, is that it hasn’t been overrun by tourists — yet.
“Even in peak season, you feel like you’re surrounded by locals and other Spaniards,” he says. He should know: his family is from Galicia, and he grew up traveling back and forth between there and Chicago. The region is famous for its seafood; it’s where Alonso sources much of the fish that’s served at Porto. “The countryside is gorgeous,” he continues. “The beaches are beautiful. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world falls in love with it.”
Alonso, meanwhile, is excited about all the openings, though he realizes that two restaurants, one bar, and one hotel is an insane workload. He anticipates a much quieter 2023. “Then,” he jokes, “I’ll be institutionalized by my team.”
Bambola and Coquette, 1400 W. Randolph Street, opening late summer 2022. Kashmir, 1436 W. Randolph Street, opening late 2022.