An expansive new all-day restaurant and bar from the Chicago group behind cafe mini-chain Fairgrounds Craft Coffee & Tea is coming in September to a prominent Loop location across from the city’s Lyric Opera of Chicago. Kinsley by Fairgrounds, a distinctive project from the brand in both its scale and scope, will marry contemporary food, drink, and design to architecture drawn from the city’s historic 1893 World’s Fair. It’s slated to open Monday, September 19 inside an office tower at 1 N. Upper Wacker Drive.
Named for Herbert M. Kinsley, a Chicago restaurateur of the era who oversaw dining at the fair, the restaurant seeks to look into the future despite its roots in the past: the 5,100 square-foot space is designed to lure the stream of workers returning to offices in the building and the neighborhood, as well as local residents.
Equipped with 15-foot ceilings with arched trellises, the space seats 135 in spacious green velvet Pullman-style booths, banquettes lined with quartz tables, and comfy-looking stools along an enormous white bar. Designed by local firm Barker Nestor, also behind the noteworthy design at spots including Bazaar by José Andrés and Utopian Tailgate, it seeks to tap into the excitement of the era with pendant light fixtures that resemble fireworks mid-burst and colorful artwork from the fair’s Columbian Exposition. It also promises a distinctively of-the-moment aspect: a 50-seat three-season outdoor patio on the building’s Franklin Street plaza.
While the soaring white space stands out among the Fairgrounds team’s casual, family-friendly cafes, the menu walks the line between already popular dishes and new options. Cafe regulars can expect hits such as breakfast tacos and funnel cake fries dusted with powdered sugar alongside seasonal selections including an Angus smash burger with American cheese and bacon, and s’mores French toast doused in chocolate ganache and marshmallow sauce.
Fans can also expect the group’s large menu of coffee and tea drinks, as well as seltzer on tap. Bar patrons will find classic cocktails and riffs with more old-school references, such as Applegreen’s Old Pal with apple brandy, Maker’s Mark, and Luxardo cherry syrup. The name pays homage to H.M. Kinsley’s famed bartender John Applegreen. A menu of bar fare fully leans into modern festival foods like mini corn dogs, caramel corn, and nachos.
Despite the 19th-century conceit, true crime aficionados may find Kinsley’s arrival to be serendipitous: Hulu’s long-anticipated mini-series Devil in the White City (co-produced star Keanu Reeves alongside Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio) is set to finally start filming in 2023. The show is based on author Erik Larson’s best-seller about Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair and the simultaneous criminal exploits of serial killer H. H. Holmes.
Explore Kinsley and some of its menu items in the photographs below.
Kinsley by Fairgrounds, 1 N. Upper Wacker Drive, Scheduled to open Monday, September 19.