For months, the West Loop and Fulton Market have wondered what Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises was planning in their neighborhood. The city’s largest hospitality company had filed a few permits leading to speculation as to how the owners of Aba and Ramen-san planned to expand.
Part of the intrigue involves a veteran chef. Last year, LEYE lured Max Robbins away from his job at Land & Sea Dept. where he oversaw the development of Parson’s Chicken & Fish and the kitchen at Logan Square’s Longman & Eagle.
Robbins is Lettuce’s culinary director and for his first new project with the company, he’s bringing a little of California wine country to Chicago inside a new office building at 163 N. Green Street. LEYE’s dual concept, called the Oakville Grill & Cellar, will take up two floors. The building’s private space, 167 Green Events, has already hosted a few functions and earned a reputation for having a basketball court upstairs where visitors can find gorgeous views of the city’s skyline from the 17th floor.
Robbins will bring a Midwest sensibility to the menu that will change depending on the featured wines of the month. Sample dishes include buttermilk fried chicken and coal-roasted salmon with stone-ground grits and ramps. There’s an emphasis on food grilled over an oak-fueled fire with a variety of seafood choices. There’s also an outdoor all-season patio on the second floor, according to the Tribune.
LEYE’s wine director Richard Hanauer has connected with vineyards in the Napa Valley and plans on bringing 750 different wines to the project. Hanauer, also a partner at Lettuce’s RPM restaurants, is also overseeing a tasting room where customers can pretend they’re in Yountville, California and sip on wine flights. The idea is to mimic a tourist’s visit to multiple vineyards in Northern California. This isn’t a rehash of Lettuce’s Summer House Santa Monica which apes a Southern California aesthetic.
Hanauer, according to a news release, will team up with a winery every month to feature their selections. The hope is customers will be enticed to bring bottles home or join wine clubs, thus completing the California wine country experience.
The Oakville Grill & Cellar, 163 N. Green Street, scheduled for a spring opening.