Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, the city’s main commercial artery, continues to recover from the pandemic. Still, the stretch is generally considered the domain of tourists and over time that perception has fostered a glut of chain restaurants and dining spots. It’s a state of affairs that baffles Wildberry Cafe owner George Archos and Forno Rosso owner Nick Nitti who believe that as a world-class dining city, that the Mag Mile can do better than tourist traps.
The pair plan to make good on that assertion this summer this summer with the Evie, which will replace Bandera, a restaurant whose familiar sign had adorned the Mag Mile for nearly two decades. Bandera was among the batch of pandemic closures affecting downtown Chicago in March 2020 at 535 N. Michigan Avenue.
Archos, owner of breakfast mini-chain Wildberry Cafe; and Nitti, the restaurateur best known for Neopolitan pizzeria Forno Rosso and Cucina 3 Italia imagine the Evie as an upscale spot with a menu offering steak, seafood, sushi, and more They’ve known each other for two decades: “We love the corridor — the tourism, the hotels, and hospitality — but there’s a lack of good restaurants on Michigan Avenue,” Archos says. “It’s somewhere that we feel has a fantastic future and a need for new dining.”
Chef Phil Rubino, of acclaimed Italian restaurant Spiaggia and venerable seafood palace L20 will create a menu with fresh seafood that’s flown in daily, USDA prime steaks and burgers, and loaves of bread baked every morning onsite. They’re striving for inclusivity with selections for vegans and gluten-free diners. Rubino and his team will also offer maki and nigiri: “It’s good food people want to eat daily,” says Archos.
Family dining will be an integral component at the Evie, which is named for Archos’ daughter and mother. The downtown strip attracts parents and children who may have trouble finding a place to eat that makes everyone happy. The Evie hopes to offer an upscale yet comfortable atmosphere that will set all family members at ease. “You can always depend on your family, so we want to be a dependable restaurant,” says Archos.
Workers have completely remodeled the 7,100-square-foot second-floor space, which is designed to evoke the feeling of an elegant art gallery, says Nitti. The team is sourcing artwork from local artists to bring a “dynamic” feel to the dining room, which will be outfitted in a warm, neutral color palette with notes of copper and brass. The partners want the dining room to complement the grand architecture and classic style of Michigan Avenue itself.
Both Archos and Nitti were born and raised in Chicago, and it rankles them that so few Mag Mile restaurateurs have roots in the city. The area has struggled to recover from the early years of the pandemic, with restaurants closing and breathless headlines touting concern over crime. The partners hope that their new restaurant will prove that Chicagoans, rather than out-of-town hospitality brands, will make Michigan Avenue flourish again. “This is a local restaurant with local friends putting it together with local artists and locally-sourced ingredients,” says Nitti.
The Evie, 535 N. Michigan Avenue, scheduled to open in mid-June.