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Gilt Bar's Brendan Sodikoff Sets Sights on Wicker Park

By Alisa Hauser | August 21, 2013 9:10am | Updated on August 21, 2013 9:15am
 A new restaurant concept is coming to 1732 N. Milwaukee Ave., the space formerly occupied by Mexican restaurant Cafe Con Leche.
Cafe Con Leche Shutters in Bucktown/Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK —  A Mexican eatery on a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue that Wicker Park and Bucktown both lay claim to shuttered Friday, but a new venture by prolific restaurateur Brendon Sodikoff is coming to the space soon.

Ulysses Salamanca, the owner of the former Mexican restaurant, Cafe Con Leche, said he turned over the lease to owners who will be "building a new restaurant concept" at 1732 N. Milwaukee Ave.

An Aug. 14 work permit lists Sodikoff as the new owner of the building, which is across from the Bucktown-Wicker Park library and about one block north of the Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection.

Sodikoff recently opened a Jewish deli, Dillmans, in the River North neighborhood, and is the founder of Gilt Bar, Doughnut Vault, and Maude's Liquors, among others. Matt Brewer, a partner in the venture, confirmed Tuesday that a new restaurant is coming to the former Cafe Con Leche space in "late fall or early winter."

Brewer did not provide details on the type of restaurant he and Sodikoff are bringing to Bucktown/Wicker Park.

In April, Sodikoff was named Restaurateur of the Year by the editors of Time Out Chicago, who predicted "if he opened a corner stand selling fried raccoon belly, suddenly fried raccoon belly would be the hippest dish in town."

Before Cafe Con Leche, which opened in 2008, the standalone corner building on the northwest corner of Wabansia and Milwaukee avenues was home to Johnny's Snack Shop.

With the closure of Cafe Con Leche, a "ghost skateboard" memorial for Reggie Destin which was housed in the cafe's parking lot was removed.

Destin was killed in October after being struck by a drunken driver while skating in the 1700 block of North Milwaukee Avenue near Cafe Con Leche.

During the 10 months Destin's skateboard sat in the restaurant's parking lot facing Milwaukee Avenue, friends of Destin brought cupcakes on the skater's birthday and frequently adorned the memorial with fresh flowers.

Uriah Ruta, co-owner of Uprise Skate Shop and a close friend of Destin, said he was called by a worker from Cafe Con Leche about two weeks ago and was told to pick up the memorial.

Ruta said the memorial will be installed somewhere else, or perhaps money raised at fundraisers for Destin will be used to "make something nicer, like a plaque."

"We're working on that, and just figuring out where to put it. It was nice of [Salamanca] to let us have it there for so long," Ruta said of the memorial.

Meanwhile, Salamanca said he's focusing efforts and energy on his other business, Flash Taco at 1570 N. Damen Ave.

"I needed to take two steps back and put one solid foot forward and concentrate on the corner," Salamanca said, referring to the busy six-corner intersection where Flash Taco has long held court.

The taco staple, which recently celebrated its 15-year anniversary, has undergone an extensive remodeling and plans to begin offering breakfast in September, Salamanca said.