Call these the official Bedford Preview Days: Tomorrow, Mark Steuer starts a three-day ride on the Southern Mac truck, where he'll preview menu items from his forthcoming restaurant. And today, TOC has more details about the restaurant.
Steuer—the former HotChocolate chef, as well as a one-time cook at The Gage—first hinted at his new restaurant in January, but it's only today that most of the details are getting out. Steuer’s partners in the 150-seat West Town restaurant (slated to open in late April or early May) are Salita Development, a real estate development company responsible for Sheraton Chicago Northbrook and The Fremont, whose director Matt Mering was the operating partner of Reserve nightclub. The group has acquired a space on the lower level of the former MB Bank building (1612 W Division, on the corner of Division and Ashland), pulling the restaurant’s name from the Bedford limestone used inside. “It’s a really cool space, about 6,500 square feet, and we’re trying to keep as many of the bank’s design elements as possible,” Steuer says. “Aside from the limestone, there’s a lot of marble, and we’re adding some modern touches like exposed beams and some midcentury modern [elements] to play against the traditional look. We’re also using the bank vault space, which still has the copper safety deposit boxes, as a lounge where we’ll serve an abbreviated version of our menu.” [Ed. note: Are vaults the new food trucks?]
So what’s on said menu? Steuer calls it “reinterpreted Midwestern,” and from the looks of the dishes he shared, there’s also a bit of his German roots peeking through (something that showed up often at HotChocolate). Pork and veal meatballs will get mustard spaetzle and a sauerkraut cream, with pickled onions and roasted mushrooms alongside. The “Midwest po’ boy” gives traditional trimmings like remoulade and housemade pickles to fried local whiting. Pan-roasted walleye cheeks will be paired with a ragout of bacon, fava bean and spring garlic. “I think everyone now uses sustainable and local [ingredients] and then cooks Mediterranean or Asian food with it,” Steuer says. “To me it’s interesting to using local ingredients full-circle by applying them to the classic dishes you’d find where the ingredients were actually grown.”
The menu ranges from small plates to larger share plates, and similar to other local spots ditching the app/entrée format, it will be broken down by main focus: “From the Soil” (i.e. vegetables), “From the Sea” (duh), and “From the Pasture” (moo and oink and everything in between). There’s also a category called “From our Friends,” where Steuer will admit his limitations and bring in desserts from a few of the city’s best pastry chefs: a seasonal special from Mindy Segal, pie from Hoosier Mama’s Paula Haney and gelato from Black Dog’s Jessica Oloroso.
Behind the bar, Peter Gugni (Reserve, Le Passage, SF’s Cantina) will focus on craft beers (8 on draft, a few dozen in bottles) and cocktails (the classics and a handful of seasonal signatures). “The drinks, the beer, the food—it’s all elevated, it’s all going to be executed with care. But ultimately I really want this to be a neighborhood bar and kitchen,” Steuer says. “A place where you don’t need to order three courses, where you can pop in and have some drinks and a couple of plates...you know, no big deal.”
No big deal? Wicker Park—and any fan of Steuer's cooking—may disagree.