As office workers return to downtown Chicago, Broken Shaker, the Miami-imported cocktail bar at Freehand Chicago in River North, is expanding with a new cafe in the hotel’s lobby adding a 571-square-foot cafe with a morning and afternoon menu.
“I’ve been working on these things for weeks and being a chef, it’s always changing,” executive chef Corey Rice says. “You get excited about something, and then you go back to the drawing board like an architect, and you start over again.”
Rice believes the changes will help Broken Shaker compete against the many other big name restaurants and bars in River North.
“I look all around and we got Weber [Grill], we got STK, we got Gordon [Ramsay Burger] just opening up in the neighborhood,” Rice says. “Some of those chefs and bar owners, they’ve been over and they’ve had our food and they tasted our drinks. So watch out. We’re in the River North, and we’re coming for you. We’re here to stay.”
One of the dishes Rice is most excited about is his spin on avocado toast made with peaches sauteed in bourbon, prosciutto, arugula, ricotta with rustic bread from Eataly. Another riff on a breakfast classic will be the Everything Biscuit with smoked salmon featuring a buttermilk biscuit.
“This is my mother’s grandmother’s recipe that I’m bringing down to the Broken Shaker, and we’re going to knock some socks off with this one,” Rice says. “We do an in-house herb cream cheese as the spread, we’ve got the capers, of course. We have a lovely smoked salmon that we’re using. I’m just going to try to hit some home runs.”
The cafe will feature a grab-and-go pastry counter serving traditional croissants and yogurt parfaits as well as pastries stuffed with leeks and parmesan, which Rice said are meant to give vegetarians the same flavors as a ham and cheese croissant. He’ll also be serving breakfast empanadas stuffed with chorizo, potato, scrambled egg, and aged cheddar or sweet potatoes and kale.There’s also a cranberry-orange muffin that Rice is excited about: “You taste the flavor: the sweet with the bitter, with the citrus. It all comes together.”
Visitors can still get the Broken Shaker bar’s menu of shared plates during the day, and the cafe will also transition to lunch in the afternoon with options like a pulled pork sandwich and a sauteed kale grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough bread. Rice has been testing the recipes with pop-ups at Broken Shaker throughout the year and plans to continue using them to experiment. He first tested versions of empanadas made with Jamaican jerk chicken or sauteed cabbage with red potato and habanero in February, where they quickly sold out.
The cafe will also have its own all-day cocktail menu featuring frozen strawberry daiquiri and pina coladas and the Express Yourself, a blend of vodka, coffee liqueur, averna, cold brew coffee concentrate and chai orgeat garnished with coffee beans.
“All of our drink menus have a vibe,” Rice says. “I think our mixologists come up with some of the best drinks in Chicago. When you look at the presentation, not only does it taste good and make you feel good, but it looks good.”
Broken Shaker Cafe, 19 E. Ohio Street, planned to debut the week of Monday, July 25 with opening hours from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.