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Virtue’s Erick Williams and Company Are Planning a New Hyde Park Project

Star bartender Paul McGee will consult on the project with the James Beard Award winner

2023 James Beard Restaurant And Chef Awards
Chef Erick Williams poses in June 2023 outside the Lyric Opera of Chicago before the James Beard Awards.
Photo by Jeff Schear/Getty Images for The James Beard Foundation
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Later this year, James Beard Award winner Erick Williams plans to open his fifth restaurant, right around the corner from Virtue in Hyde Park. Williams isn’t ready to share a name, but he’s taking over the former Launder Koin space and putting Virtue managing partner Jesus Garcia front and center.

While Virtue celebrates Black culture, the new restaurant will celebrate Mexican culture, focusing on the beverage side with some well-thought out food sometime this fall or early winter at 5230 S. Harper Avenue.

“Jesus has been a very loyal partner and has been front-of-house managing at Virtue and the face of our floor for five years,” Williams says. “It’s time for me to reciprocate and support him the same way he’s supported me.”

Rewarding loyalty and mentoring is part of Williams’ DNA. Last year, Virtue chef de cuisine Damarr Brown won the Beard Award for emerging chef as Williams trusted Brown with Virtue to allow his protege to put his own stamp on the Southern American restaurant.

Williams has brought on one of Chicago’s most revered bartenders as a consultant. Paul McGee, who’s opened celebrated bars like the Whistler, Three Dots and a Dash, Lost Lake, and Milk Room, will help design the bar. That is, to ensure the space is laid out properly so bartenders have what they need in an organized fashion.

“We have bars and restaurants, but that doesn’t mean things are efficient,” Williams says.

McGee’s duration as a consultant isn’t set, but he’ll work on the opening menu: “We’ll see how long he’ll be willing to hang out with us,” says Williams.

Black diners at Virtue often remark on how the art, design, and music strike a personal chord. Williams wants Mexican diners to have the same feeling at the new bar: “From the historical context, there’s so much to uncover,” he says.

Another important part of the team is Javier Perez, a chef who Williams says taught him how to be a line cook while working at MK The Restaurant in River North. Perez works at Williams’ South Loop restaurant, Mustard Seed Kitchen: “I’m always excited when I can do a project with people that have supported me,” Williams says.

Williams says they’ve been negotiating with the University of Chicago over the lease for some time. A pop-up laundromat that had been in operation since June, Dirty Laundry, closed on Sunday, January 7 to make room for Williams.

Another bit of news with five restaurants — the new bar, Virtue, Daisy’s Po-Boy & Tavern, Mustard Seed Kitchen, and Top This Mac and Cheese — it would seem Williams has enough for his own restaurant group. And so the five will operate on the newly branded Virtue Hospitality Group.

Stay tuned for more on Williams’ plans. This Hyde Park project is one of 2024’s most anticipated openings.

Erick Williams’ new bar project, 5230 S. Harper Avenue, Planned for a fall or early winter opening.