Thursday, September 22, 2011

Timeout Chicago Takes An In Depth Look Jerry Kleiner

Time-out Chicago has the most detailed story we've ever read about Jerry Kleiner. Regardless on your feelings on him, he was a integral part of the South Loop scene over the past 10 years or so. It's an interesting read. Here's a highlight about the Sloop:

With Davis and Kleiner as the remaining majority partners, KDK continued its string of openings in then-sketchy neighborhoods, this time setting its sights on the South Loop with Italian spot Gioco (1999), Chinese concept Opera (2002) and the short-lived Japanese spot Saiko (2003–05). When Gioco debuted, “there was just a trickle of residential on the eastern end” of the South Loop, Kleiner says. “Wherever I’ve gone, I’ve created a movement, a vision, an energy field. It took me years to get people to follow me down to these areas.”
If you're like us, this comment is a little off-putting. Maybe there is some truth to it, but still seems like he's giving himself to much credit.


Patrick said...

This guys a douche. When I moved to the sloop an Italian restaurant wasn't part of the criteria for the neighborhood. And what kind of Italian restaurant doesn't have chicken parm? I'll go to bionda.

Jeff said...

I hate Lollapalooza

Anonymous said...

He may be a douche, but he was very successful early on and that certainly did have an effect in bringing in more businesses like Bionda.

Joe Zekas said...

Meet Kleiner in this video I shot with him after he toured me around Room 21:

BRENDAN said...

I wouldnt credit Kleiner's resturants for the overall growth of the south loop....

Place like Bionda went in because the area was be developed quickly and they took a shot at it and thankfully for them it worked out.

You CAN however make an argument that jerry Kleiner's resturants helped bring a little culture and flair to the area. But no, I would not say that Opera and Gioco helped build the south loop, city planners and developers did.

Anonymous said...

Re: Cafe Bionda - I just want to give a thumbs up for them as I went for the 1st time this week and I was very impressed. Inside had a Gioco feel. I ordered the whole brick chicken ($22) it could have fed 4 people! More importantly it was very tasty (a little dry, but with the 'juice' it was great). Also, great service and beautiful people hanging out.

Jeff said...

I am STARVED for attention....

Anonymous said...

Brendan, I am not sure when you first moved to the South Loop but to say thinks like your quote below is just ignorant and shows you lack perspective:
----------------------------------------------Brendan: "I wouldnt credit Kleiner's restaurants for the overall growth of the south loop....Place like Bionda went in because the area was be developed quickly and they took a shot at it and thankfully for them it worked out.,"

We can separate and probably agree to the lore of the personality issues, whether he is a "douche", his business acumen, his girlfriend's hotness, etc.

However, for those of us that lived South of Roosevelt, where there was limited-resident-serving business options, a few run-down SRO's, etc., when Kleiner took a chance by converting an old flower-shop into a cool loft style, swank restaurant (and creating that restaurant corner) , it was a huge shot in the arm for the South Loop, both as affirmation for those doubting there decision to set roots here, and to the rest of the Chicago area, who may not have held the area in high regard.

So much so of an impact, and they won't admit it, but how many real estate agents, developers, businesses, etc. feature pictures of Gioco in their sales literature or brochures. Most residents may have not benefited from this place as business to get a meal, but all have benefited from this place as an identity icon.

For those that claim otherwise, is foolishness, and shows you have not idea what you are talking about. Places like Bionda are here exactly because of what crazy guys like Kleiner did - you don't think they presented information on other successes in the marketplace to their investors, banks, supporters?

The only thing I will give Bionda credit for is that figuring out that a basic italian menu, small size place, and reasonable prices can succeed here.

Frankly it is funny we are quick to give more credit to buyer-fleecing-developers (not all of them) that have been also been granted TIF money they did not need, and that you pay, but have no common sense in crediting a guy that made a key 'catalystic' change to the area on his own.

Gioco is among the catalyst changes that are forever linked to the resultant term 'South Loop'. They might not be the best or most glamorous accomplishments, but the resultant reaction around or because of these was instrumental in foundationaly differentiating the pace, direction, or perception of the area for others to eventually succeed later. Some of these are well known, some are not:

> Dearborn Station & Dearborn Park (we may all not like it, but you can't doubt its impact)
> Roosevelt Orange Line Station & Red-line station reconstruction
> Mayor Daley moving to Central station
> South Loop School parents taking on the challenge of placing their kids in the school to create and improve the gifted program to the benefit of future residents (even if your kids do not attend there)
> Restaurants 'Fire Station Restaurant' & 'Gioco' opening (and within a short time of each other)
> St. James SRO tear-down & the Jewel construction
> Reconfiguration of Lake Shore Driver and creation of Museum Campus
> City improvements to create the anchor park down at the Clarke House & Glessner Museums
> Central Station's first Tower #1 completion and the buzz after.

tayiah said...

September 23, 2011 2:31 PM

YOU R SPOT ON!!! This area was no mans' land before he started restaurants. He was a definite trail bailer, the catalyst needed for this area. Developers can build as much residentail and comercial real estate as they like but the neighborhood will not take off until it offers the amenities. The realtors need selling/marketing points.
For example if u take a look at northern bronzeville it has lots of new developments, its a beautiful quaint neighborhood but it doesn't attract many buyers besides buppies. There are few business start ups in this area. Until it does these nice residential housing will sit empty for a looooooong time and there will be no preogress. This is us without the catalyst.

BRENDAN said...

I think you're going a tad overboard. My point is that Jerry Kleiner is not the sole reason the south loop ( at one point ) was regarded as one of the hottest growing neighborhoods in the country. He's not the reason we have mueseum park, roosevelt, central station, state place, etc have been built. I said I DO believe he had alot to do with adding a little flair to the area and helping put it on the map with contemporary takes on Asian and Italian cuisine. if you think jerry Kleiner paved the way for the literal development of this area then you are an even bigger asshole than I thought.