Friday, December 31, 2010

Next Up for the Restaurant Scene: A Gastropubby Sports Bar

The Ole' Hardwood Gastro-Smokehouse is gone. Today we found out that a new concept is going to be potentially taking over the 'gastro' moniker on the 1300 block of South Wabash. News came today that one of the South Loop's older restaurants, Opera, will be shutting their doors after tonight in order to become a "Gastropubby Sports Bar":

Opera, the contemporary Chinese restaurant in the South Loop, will close after dinner service on Dec. 31. Partner Jerry Kleiner tells us it will reopen in three or four months as a yet-to-be-named "gastropubby sports bar."
This is definitely an interesting change. Maybe Kleiner and crew noticed how well Flo & Santos is doing across the street and decided a change was needed. Although we like Opera and are sad to see it go, it's been evident that the place hasn't exactly been packed over the past couple of months.

We recently had a nice Friday night dinner at Opera and maybe 25-30% of the tables were occupied. Not exactly the amount of dinners a trendy restaurant would expect on a Friday night. Change is part of everything so hopefully they settle on a concept that works. It's a huge space and Kleiner definitely knows how to build an interesting space, let's hope the food lives up to the design.

Anyway, if you're like us, you're hearing "gastropub" being thrown around a lot these days. Although we thought we knew what this meant, as of late we've been less sure. Hopefully the internet and wikipedia can shed some light on this trend:
A gastropub concentrates on quality food. The name is a combination of pub and gastronomy and was coined in 1991 when David Eyre and Mike Belben took over The Eagle pub in Clerkenwell, London. The concept of a restaurant in a pub reinvigorated both pub culture and British dining, though has occasionally attracted criticism for potentially removing the character of traditional pubs.
So it sounds like it's just a focus on quality food. We like quality food, so hopefully that's what we get!

(Hat tip: RG!)

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's about time a decent sports bar opens up closer to Roosevelt Rd considering the proximity to Soldier Field. This will attract Sloop residents & maybe even non-residents to the area.

Now all we need to do is rebuild up the area just south of Zapatista's (including the Ole Hardwood spot) to help revitalize the scene on Wabash.

Anonymous said...

YES!!!!! I hope it's a "high end" place None the less, it's sad to see Opera go away.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see what the concept of a "gastro pub sports bar" means to KDK group. If done properly, this could be a great addition to the neighborhood. Think Jimmy Greens with better food and service.

Look forward to the opening this spring.

Anonymous said...

This really saddens me, I'd prefer a fine dining restaurant, or maybe even something with a bit of variety, I think the south loop has quite enough "sports bars".

Anonymous said...

Although I agree that a concept like this is long overdue, the way it's happening is so typical and unique to the south loop restaurant scene. We are losing a fine dining option! We aren't "adding" a restaurant because one is closing in order for this new place to open. The south loop trend tends to be "every time something 'new' opens, at least one or more other places close."

Anonymous said...

douchebags. What about the 3 gift certificates I bought as Christmas presents?! You would think they would at least have said something before you bought them!

Anonymous said...

I definitely look at this as the sloop dining scene taking another hit, as opposed to a jolt. Another "sports pub"? Aren't Grace O'Malley's, WeatherMark Tavern, Jimmy Green's, Flo and Santo's, etc. all "sports pubs"? I wish Kliener would reconcept this place into anything "fine dining" like he's doing with Marche. Seems like he's throwing in the towel for anything high end in the sloop (do you blame him after both Room 21 and Opera failed?).

Anonymous said...

I think it's gonna be more gastropub than a sports bar like those mentioned above. Skepticism is always warranted, of course, but Kleiner usually does things classy. After all, the Gage is a gastropub, and it has sports on the TVs. Gastropub means a real focus on good food. Only time will tell, of course. I did like Opera, but didn't go that often -- combination of price point and my husband doesn't like Chinese food.

Anonymous said...

I hope this place is not similar to Grace O'Malley's, Flo & Santos or WeatherMark which are all small & more casual places. Hopefully, they have great food and ambiance like Publican, The Gage or even Sweetwater.

Anonymous said...

This place was horrible and will not be missed, the food was overpriced and only the price was like fine dining. Will definitely not be missed by me.

Anonymous said...

"Think Jimmy Greens with better food and service" (?!) Why, that could be ANY restaurant!

Anonymous said...

I find it very hard to stomach that the South Loop doesn't have an official Bears bar. Something like the Cubby Bear for football. Maybe that would be a good route to take for the new decor? Kroll's doesn't count because that's actually a Packers bar, in case nobody noticed...

Anonymous said...

I agree that it was time for a change. The food was very overpriced for what you got. Gioco on the other hand is incredible. I don't mind spending a little more money for great italian. I did have a problem spending 25 dollars for something I could get at a Thai restaurant.

Best of luck to the new concept

Anonymous said...

I will miss the separate vegan menu the most. :(

Rob Latham said...

(replying to anonymous @ 1/2/2011 11:22 am) those gift certificates can be used at red light or gioco. hope that brightens your day a bit.

Anonymous said...

I would be shocked if this "new" place opens any time prior to 2012. This is a terrible neighborhood to open new restaurants, due to both the location and the socio-economic make-up. Kliener knows this. Opera was dead almost every night and Room 21 lasted mere months before shuttering.

Tony II said...

You open a restaurant with great food and the neighborhood will support it 100%. The people in sloop have cash to spend, but the if things are costly, it better be good. Also, the casual pubs (flo/santos, jimmy green's, krolls, wabash tap) and restaurants (Zapatista, LaCantina, Eleven City Diner, Firehouse, Gioco) are all doing very well. This conversation came up before about Room 21 and Cuatro which is that Room 21 & Cuatro's ambiance was fantastic, the food was average (room21) and Cuatro had some licensing issues (both restaurants were busy).

Brad said...

How about Reggie's. Great food and a great vibe. My favorite Sloop restaurant.

MarkChicago said...

"the socio-economic make-up"

Tell me more...i'm interested in understanding why brand-new condo owners wouldn't be a target for new restaurants?

Tony II said...

Reggie's is my favorite place as well, but I think we need to keep this in a separate category (live music venue/bar). Speaking of places south of 18th -- Cafe Bionda is another one that does very well.

Anonymous said...

Opart Thai as well. It's always packed when I go now.

Anonymous said...

I would not really consider south of 18th the south loop. I do like the fact that there is some build up down there but lets be honest.

I really believe that south areas that are typically less desirable (south of 18th) will probably see more new businesses because the commercial space is significantly cheaper. I swear to you that the commercial rent price is the problem that businesses fail not lack of consumers.

Anonymous said...

From Chicago Magazine:

The fat lady has sung for Opera, which closed on December 31st. The Scout (1301 S. Wabash Ave.; no phone yet), owned by Chris Bravos (The Pony Inn), George Archos (Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe), and Jeff Wolfe, is its planned replacement. “It’s going to be a neighborhood eatery and upscale sports bar,” Bravos says. “We’re going to go with something cozy, intimate, and lodgey.” With almost 300 seats, 30 TVs, a wide-ranging beer menu, and fancy bar food, the place will fill an unmet South Loop need, Bravos says. The Scout’s owners are shooting for a May 1st opening, as soon as they finish the remodeling, chef hiring, and their orienteering merit badge.