UPTOWN — A former chicken joint in Uptown is in the midst of a $100,000 renovation to transform it into a fine dining destination that its chef hopes can dispel some of the stigma associated with the area.
42 Grams, a joint venture of the 30-year-old chef Jake Bickelhaupt and his wife Alexa, is scheduled to serve its first meal in mid-January at 4662 N. Broadway. The 1,400 square foot space used to be Chester's Chicken before it closed in the fall.
Bickelhaupt and two other chefs will cook up the food and his wife, who handles a lot of the business and marketing aspects of the venture, will be the hostess, adding to an intimate dinner-party style experience, Bickelhaupt said. The restaurant will be open from Tuesday to Saturday, have about 18 seats and two seating times for groups of strangers who pre-pay for a reservation.
Fine dining isn't the first thing people typically think of when they think of Uptown, but Bickelhaupt said he plans to change that.
He wants 42 Grams, where a reservation will cost you about $200 per person for a 15-course prix-fixe meal, to become "a destination restaurant," for people across the city.
"I think the perception of this neighborhood is wrong, that it's a bad place. It's a beautiful place, and there's beautiful things happening," he said, touting the pending makeover of the Wilson Red Line and various rehabs of "crumbling buildings," taking place. "A lot of people that aren't from this neighborhood are going to dine at this restaurant, but that's going to bring awareness…and it can start changing the idea of the neighborhood."
Bickelhaupt, who lives with his wife above the restaurant, previously worked at Charlie Trotter's, Alinea and Schwa — but when those kitchens didn't satisfy his hunger to make a name for himself, he decided to make his own opportunity.
Bickelhaupt and his wife have spent much of the past two years hosting underground fine dining affairs for groups of strangers at their apartment under the name Sous Rising. Sous eventually took brick and mortar form as 42 Grams, the chef said.
Bickelhaupt, like many chefs, doesn't like to label his food. He loathes the idea of calling it "new American," and prefers to label it, simply "authentic."
He wouldn't speak much about the menus he would feature, but promised they would be diverse and hinted that he "likes to do a lot of Asian flavors." Being in Uptown, he said, "there's a lot of inspiration for that," with Argyle Street just north of his apartment.
"A lot of the food is like music. It goes up and down, up and down, and it's supposed to deliver a complete experience," Bickelhaupt said. "And I would want people to just give it a shot, just try it, and then you'll understand."