Independence Day is a great time for Chicagoans to eat or drink outside, preferably near the lake or river. And while a longtime favorite remains in mothballs on North Avenue Beach, a new option is opening soon at Kathy Osterman Beach near Edgewater.
The first beachside venture from Lindsey Anderson-Perez, owner of Uvae Kitchen & Wine Bar and its neighboring fromagerie, Aura aims to defy snack shack assumptions with a menu that skips fried standards in favor of ahi tuna tartare with mango and avocado, lobster cake sliders, shrimp po’ boys, and blackened grouper tacos.
“We want to get away from that cheese fries, chicken-finger concession stand situation that it used to be,” she says. “[It’ll be] more of a dining destination for the [nearby] high rises, a nice outdoor space where they can come for lunch or dinner.
Anderson-Perez views Aura as an extension of the Uvae brand, which means that her high expectations of the food also apply to drinks. The beach bar will offer frozen rum runners and piña coladas, as well as a swirl of both flavors that the team has dubbed the “Edgewater Vice.” That’s in addition to both draft and canned beers, as well as canned wine. As a wine bar owner, Anderson-Perez feels strongly about highlighting quality wines, even in cans, and says she’s bringing in a fun lineup of Chilean sparklers, sauvignon blancs, and pinot noirs.
Bathed in oceanic teal tones and pops of pearly pink, Aura will seat 32 spread between sun-drenched beach chairs and shaded tables under a pergola. Designed by Chicago firm Forward Rewind Design, also behind the aesthetic at Uvae, the space includes a small bar that sets 10 alongside hanging basket swings, woven lampshades, and lush potted plants. Anderson-Perez says she’s secured an agreement with the Chicago Park District that will allow Aura to remain open through October, so patrons can expect to eventually see fire pits and heaters.
This is all good news for the many Chicagoans (and, frankly, tourists) who descend in droves upon a different section of the lakefront — North Avenue Beach — and feel there is no more recognizable symbol of summer than Castaways Bar & Grill. A massive concessions stand shaped like a steamship, the beachside snack spot is seen as a seasonal staple, practically a force of nature. The space is leased by the Chicago Park District to Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants.
Castaways remain temporarily closed for about $150,000 worth of renovations, according to the Sun-Times, with no indication of a reopening date. “[We’re] hoping we can move forward as soon as possible and bring a much-needed fresh new look,” Anthony Stefani wrote Eater on Thursday night via email.
Aura, 5701 N. Lake Shore Drive at Osterman Beach, Scheduled to open in mid-July.