The Art Institute of Chicago is preparing to reopen on-site dining on Thursday, March 23, for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. One of the city’s most prominent cultural institutions, the museum has partnered on food and drink service with a pair of local heavyweights in their own right: The James Beard Award-winning Boka Restaurant Group, behind Girl & the Goat and Momotaro, and longtime hospitality staple Levy Restaurants.
The partners will introduce new menus at the Art Institute’s three dining spaces: the Market, a replacement for the former member’s lounge with multiple dining options; the Modern Cafe in the museum’s Modern Wing; and the Member Bar, a section for private and social events that have taken over the former Terzo Piano restaurant space, according to a rep. The Art Institute has also made cosmetic updates and reconfigured areas where patrons eat and drink, according to Crain’s.
The Market will host a rotating lineup that starts with La Patinette, a French-style soup and sandwich spot from chef Chris Pandel of the Bristol and Swift & Sons. In April, chef Lee Wolen from Boka will step in with a second outpost of GG’s Chicken Shop, his casual haven for fried and rotisserie chicken that launched a flagship in late February in Lakeview’s Southport Corridor. Details on future offerings will be rolled out in the coming months.
This is the first partnership announced since Levy acquired a minority stake in Boka last fall. It also comes on the heels of a bustling start to 2023 for Boka, which in January opened splashy French brasserie Le Select in River North, and the following month introduced GG’s and new Japanese restaurant Itoko inside a historic building in Lakeview that previously housed bar and bowling alley Southport Lanes. Celebrity chef Stephanie Izard’s Little Goat Diner will join them in April. In the meantime, Boka co-founder Rob Katz is aiming for an April opening for the Pearl Club, a new cocktail lounge that will replace Emmit’s Irish Pub at the intersection of Milwaukee, Grand, and Halsted.
Levy, which has spent much of the past few months embroiled in an extended labor dispute with unionized workers at the United Center, opened its first restaurant with D.B. Kaplan’s Delicatessen in 1978. The company also owned acclaimed Italian restaurant Spiaggia, chef Tony Mantuano’s now-shuttered spot near the Mag Mile.
The Market, the Modern Cafe, and the Member Bar are located at the Art Institute of Chicago at 111 S. Michigan Avenue; scheduled to open on Thursday, March 23.