It’s the first of Jared Van Camp’s Element Collective restaurants (Nellcote, Old Town Social, RM Champagne Salon and the forthcoming Leghorn Chicken) to hire an executive chef—Duncan Biddulph, formerly of Rootstock and Lula Café. The restaurant focus is sustainable seafood, and the name is a nod to a type of fly fishing lure called the "Kinmont Willie.” Biddulph says that restoration is a big part of thinking about sustainability.
“We use Indiana shrimp and Rushing Waters trout, since they responsibly manage the stocks and well-being of our waterways,” he says. “We have great purveyors in Chicago like Fortune Fish and Supreme Lobster, so we used those guys, but Jared, the sous chefs and myself reached out to people in the area,” he says. “Peter Fritsch of Rushing Waters Trout is a friend, and there are some guys in the Upper Peninsula that go out fishing for obscure stuff like lake herring. And we’re trying to source roe from whitefish and lake trout from those same guys.”
“Nothing on the avoid list will ever come into the restaurant,” he says. “Then we’ll make decisions about the species that are listed as good alternative or best choice. We’re also pursing a partnership with the Shedd Aquarium.”
The menu is wide ranging, with oysters, raw and chilled seafood, seafood platters, starters, mains, vegetables and grains and larger dishes like a lobster shore dinner, designed to share with the table.
Dishes include the Door County whitefish chowder, made with potatoes, bacon, cream and oyster crackers made in house. Biddulph says the roasted sardines are especially sustainable, since there’s “a great big stock and they do great things for the ocean—and they’re delicious.” Here they’re served with butternut squash, puffed wild rice and black garlic.
Biddulph says that Element Collective executive pastry chef Nate Meads is handling the desserts, and right now there’s a “single serving apple pie with vanilla ice cream and aged cheddar caramel.” He’s also responsible for the many baked goods made in house, such as the Parker House rolls, crackers and country bread for the mussels and tartare.
The drink list, from bar manager Jason Brown, skews classic, with Tom Collins, Hemingway Daiquiris and Jack Rose cocktails. Cocktail prices range from $8–$12.
But don’t get too attached to any dishes on the menu, since the offerings can change all the time.
“Since the nature of the menu is sustainable seafood, that means we need to change up the species a lot, and there’s a limited availability on certain things,” Biddulph says. “So something will change every day and we’ll reprint the menus every day.”