STREETERVILLE — A casual sister restaurant will take over part of Lawry's on Rush and Ontario streets in February, with lower-priced shareable plates and 12 craft beers on tap.
General manager Max Maxwell says the more laid back, American gastropub concept "will cultivate the next generation of Lawry's guests."
But the restaurant's owners want the adjoining restaurants to be distinct, so they plan to replace the Lawry's sign on Rush Street with SideDoor's red key logo, and even lobby for a separate mailing address — 631 N. Rush St., the address of the original McCormick Mansion that houses both restaurants today.
SideDoor will occupy Lawry's former Edwardian dining room on the west side of the restaurant, which Maxwell says "was dark two-thirds of the year," used only on Fridays and Saturdays and for private parties.
A three-week "soft open" with limited menu items and hours will begin Jan. 21, with the 100-seat eatery officially opening its doors to the public Feb. 18.
The menu, finalized this week, includes shareable plates of beer-braised mussels and lamb-shank pie, hot sandwiches including cheeseburgers and pastrami smoked on-site, and "roasted meat boards" — head chef Victor Newgren's answer to Chicago dining's charcuterie trend that's a "nod to Lawry's famous prime rib," Newgren said.
A wraparound bar under the staircase overlooking Lawry's Ontario Street entrance connects SideDoor to the original steakhouse and is stocked with locally-sourced liquors and a dozen craft beers.
Adding the bar and a new open kitchen facing the dining room, in addition other renovations to the building including lowering the floor by several steps, cost Lawry's management company roughly $500,000, Maxwell said.
Restaurant manager and chief mixologist Andrew Macker says his crowning cocktail concoction for the restaurant's opening is a negroni made with FEW gin from Evanston, served over ice made with water that was "cured" over hickory chips in SideDoor's new smoker.
The restaurant will serve dinner only for the first four to eight weeks, eventually adding a lunch menu and extending its hours, Maxwell said.
If business is as good as Maxwell anticipates, SideDoor may expand into a second floor currently used for storage in "a couple of years," he said, with a special entrance "only SideDoor customers would know about."
"We're really anticipating this being highly successful," Maxwell said Tuesday.