Another culinary niche – this time Bar-B-Q – will be filled by a Madison Street-locale restaurant in the next year. Rachel Dennis, a former vice president for Bar Louie Group in Chicago and owner of Oak Park’s Lake Street Kitchen + Bar closed last week on the foreclosed restaurant space at 410 Circle Ave. The space, which has hosted a revolving door of unsuccessful restaurants, was most recently home to The Shuckin’ Grill, an oyster-themed restaurant.
Architectural renderings submitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals Monday night show a 150-seat restaurant. The outside faade of the space will be considerably changed: notably with windows installed and the disappearance of the building’s “mural wall.”
The space was formerly owned by beleaguered developer/restaurateur Robert Marani. He ran through a number of ventures at the site, including La Bella Bisteca in 2008, and La Piazza from 2003-2008. The closing of La Piazza came after a protracted lawsuit between Marani and his partner, the notable chef Gaetano Di Bennedetto. Di Bennedetto moved on and quickly opened Gaetano’s, which is doing well at 7636 W. Madison St. Marani put the Circle Avenue space on the market for $750,000 in May, 2010, but Dennis reportedly bought it out of foreclosure for less than $200,000.
Chef Jason Kurosaki, formerly of Avec, will split his time between the Oak Park and Forest Park venues, leaving sous chefs in charge when he’s absent.
“[Jason] is really excited because it has a much bigger kitchen area,” said Dennis.
The menu will expand on the Lake Street Kitchen offerings, which Dennis describes as “broad-reaching for the global palate.” Lake Street features such items as grape flatbread (with rosemary, blue cheese and green grapes) or a $19.50 carmelized steak. The Forest Park restaurant will have a smoker. Barbeque and home-made breads will take a prominent place on the menu, Dennis said.
“I saw this location a year ago when I was viewing space to open my first restaurant,” she said. “I was really excited about it, but at the time it was in a quagmire with the bank, overly encumbered and basically un-saleable.”
As for a timetable, Dennis says there’s lots of work to be done. “It’s a mess in there. There’s a lot of trash to throw out and a lot of demolition work to be done. Late summer is the earliest I could picture opening up.”
As for a name for the new restaurant, Dennis says she’s brainstorming. “If anybody has any suggestions let me know.”