WICKER PARK — First, celebrity chef Rick Bayless announced he was opening a restaurant in the 'hood and now the locally-revered Paul Kahan is striking again, on familiar terrain: the 1500 block of North Damen Avenue in Wicker Park.
One Off Hospitality, the parent company for Kahan's group of restaurants (which also own Avec and Publican), has signed a lease to rent an 800 square-foot storefront at 1543 N. Damen Ave.
Kahan's two other Wicker Park joints, taqueria Big Star and cocktail lounge Violet Hour, are both a tortilla chip's throw from the new venture, located in the former Cipollina cafe storefront on the south side of Damen Avenue, next to the elevated CTA Damen Blue Line "L" tracks.
"To be honest we really don't know what we're doing there yet, it happened quickly," Garfield said. "Cipollina closed abruptly, it caught everyone off guard."
Referring to the recent surge of carb and caffeine purveyors coming to the block, Garfield was able to safely confirm, "It's not coffee and doughnuts."
Adjacent to the new restaurant will be a future commissary kitchen at 1537 N. Damen, which will house catering operations and takeout for Big Star.
The expansion project will relocate Big Star's takeout window and picnic benches from the south to north end of the parking lot, while the patio will be expanded south, Garfield said.
"For the commissary we're still working on drawings, still submitting permits. I'd like to say it will open ASAP but there's a lot of work. I don't really have answer as to when," Garfield said.
Garfield said that the commissary will not be open to the public, but the new restaurant next store means, "It all goes hand in hand, all together. It's a great little part of the neighborhood."
Big Star's landlord Catherine Caravette said she believes a third restaurant by her existing tenants will be "fun and great for the neighborhood."
Caravette said the news of Cipollina shuttering in July came as a surprise, even to her.
"I did not know Conrad [owner of Cipollina] had closed. I was very disappointed and trying to encourage him to stay open," Caravette said.
Big Star's new commissary kitchen has resulted in changes for Caravette, too.
The realtor has begun the process of relocating her commercial real estate firm from its first floor office to an office on the third floor of the building to make way for the commissary kitchen.
Caravette has owned the building at 1537-43 N. Damen Avenue for 20 years and said the green facade will be repainted "as soon as Big Star is done with their construction."
"We're thinking black... but we'll see," Caravette said.