Chicago diners love to debate on most food and drink topics, but the arrival of the city’s all-too-brief patio season is a reason for all to celebrate. Locals aren’t short on outdoor drinking opportunities for adults, but a recently revamped spot featuring smash burgers and over-the-top milkshake creations adds a family-friendly option into the summertime mix.
CSK, the latest spot from Erik Baylis of Big Onion Tavern Group (Fatpour Tap Works), opened in early May at 1224 W. Webster Avenue, next to Lincoln Park’s beloved Floriole Cafe. Big Onion previously called the space Centre Street Kitchen, a neighborhood restaurant with a charity theme. Centre Street opened in October 2019, just months before the pandemic began. The business would pivot to private events over the intervening years but is now back open to the public with a distinctly kid-focused twist.
“We wanted to take the time to regroup and create a concept that truly fit the neighborhood best with the type of food that we execute best,” Baylis writes. “The result is a quick-service, recession-proof spot for anyone from a group of school kids to a family of five.”
Conscientious of still-developing palates, the menu plays all the familiar hits with options like the CSK Burger, a quarter-pound prime smash burger (single or double) topped with American cheese, pickles, and cola onions. CSK also serves chicken sandwiches, tenders, beef-fat fries, and onion rings. Grown-ups can order wines by the glass and draft beers.
Beyond Floriole, the first Sweet Mandy B’s, the famous cupcake merchant, resides on the block. Given that, Baylis knows there’s no age limit on a sweet tooth. CSK finds the younger set is particularly enthusiastic about its dessert lineup of soft-serve ice cream, classic shakes, a maximalist “monster” milkshake. and sundaes. Particularly wild submissions include the Breakfast of Champions Shake — a Froot Loop-encrusted glass filled with Fruity Pebble-swirled vanilla ice cream, vanilla syrup, and cereal marshmallows, crowed with a Rice Krispies Treat, powdered donut, and a cherry Pop Tart. Then there’s the CSK Bubble Bath Sundae, a miniature bathtub filled with ice cream and smothered in toppings. The team also plans to introduce monthly rotating milkshakes.
Nestled near DePaul University, CSK aims to draw couples, families, and college students with a patio that seats around 50 that’s illuminated with string lights and is decorated with ivy-covered walls. Hanging vintage mirrors and lounge seating create an indoor-outdoor feeling, and patrons can work off a sugar rush on two patio swings.
Indoors, there’s an airy modern dining room with new touches such as a menu on a chalk wall, playful burger-themed artwork, and neon signs. There’s seating along a bar and at low-top tables where budding artists can draw with crayons on parchment paper. CSK continues to offer private events inside its Sapphire Room.
“We’ve created an atmosphere that welcomes all ages, pet owners, and foodies,” Baylis says. “Talking with so many neighbors over the last few months, we’ve heard ‘This is exactly what we need in this neighborhood!’ and we couldn’t be more excited to be open.”
CSK Chicago, 1224 W. Webster Avenue, Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.