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A blue wooden sign in front of Art Smith’s Reunion outside on a sidewalk patio with bushes and patio furniture.
Navy Pier’s new flagship restaurant, Chef Art Smith’s Reunion, is now open.
Kim Kovacik/Eater Chicago

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Tour Navy Pier’s New Flagship Restaurant From Celeb Chef Art Smith

Will Chef Art Smith’s Reunion lure more than tourists?

Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Dining at Navy Pier used to be a joke with fast food dominating the famous tourist attraction known for its the giant ferris wheel and slow-moving crowds of out of towners. But over the last two years, pier officials set out to change that, and have added more local flavors like Original Rainbow Cone and Brown Sugar Bakery.

A smiling, white-haired and bearded man, Art Smith, with crossed arms.
Art Smith says he’s in Chicago “indefinitely” to launch his new restaurant.

Now, the biggest splash has arrived in the form of a new flagship restaurant. Chef Art Smith’s Reunion is open next to the pier’s main entrance. It’s a Southern restaurant that features fried chicken, salads, and sandwiches. Smith, who opened a restaurant with a similar menu (Homecomin’) in Orlando at Disney Springs, says he hopes his restaurant will attract more than tourists. He says he’s remaining in Chicago indefinitely to assure the launch goes smoothly at the high-volume spot. But the jury, of course, is still out if Reunion can rise above tourist trap expectations.

Creating a welcoming dining room is key for Smith, who says he’s always dreamed of being an ambassador. It’s something he’s done as a champion for LGBTQ rights. He traveled to Europe earlier this year and spent time in Portugal. He says he had the opportunity in May to raise the rainbow flag above the U.S. embassy in Lisbon.

Navy Pier isn’t quite an embassy, but it does represent a gateway to Chicago. Smith wants to create a warm environment with cocktails, CBD baked goods, and more. Reunion will be a work in progress, and Smith wants to add “the best” drag brunch in Chicago: “Something wonderful, really just blow it out the door and be fun,” he says.

Four pieces of fried chicken with herbs on a white plate.
A salad on a round plate.
Baked mac and cheese covered with cheese in a bowl.
A slice of chess pie.

Chef Smith is excited about the baked goods.

Staffing has been an issue at Disney and in Chicago. Smith acknowledges that the restaurant business is a bit of a gamble in the current environment, but says he and partners George and Manolis Alpogianis of America’s Dog & Burger are ready for the challenge.

“They wanted a name, and so that’s why I’m here,” Smith says. “I’m excited.”

Take a tour through the space below. Chef Art Smith’s Reunion is now open.

Chef Art Smith’s Reunion, Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Avenue, (312) 224-1415, open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, reservations via OpenTable.

The entrance to a restaurants outdoor patio with a chain blocking entry.
Visitors can’t miss Reunion’s entrance at Navy Pier.
Outdoor seating a restaurant with tables in a single row and string lights.
Bubba Gump Shrimp occupied this space for 24 years.
Five bar chairs in front of a dark brown bar stocked with booze.

Reunion’s cocktail menu adds to the drink selection around the pier.

Chef Art Smith’s Reunion

600 East Grand Avenue, , IL 60611 (312) 224-1415 Visit Website

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