SOUTH LOOP — After eight years living across the street from Cafe Society — the restaurant near the Chicago Park District building's entrance at 1801 S. Indiana Ave. — Scott Golas and his girlfriend Alicia Bird say they understood the need for a dining hotspot there.
So when longtime owner Jorge Armando Afanador realized the 14-year-old restaurant needed renovations he couldn't afford, he partnered with the longtime customers, who also both have experience in the hospitality and restaurant industry.
Lizzie discusses the changes the longtime customers hope to make:
Cafe Society will reopen July 1 under new ownership, then briefly close and reopen as The Spoke & Bird in mid-August.
The name is a nod to the couple's shared passion for biking, which they hope will in part define the vibe at the new health-focused eatery.
Part of their vision for the new restaurant includes transforming the new outdoor patio that abuts the Women's Park and Gardens into a 100-seat lounge that serves beer and wine. Last week, the duo scored a liquor license to do just that, Golas said.
"It was one of those, 'Stop complaining and talking about how much better it could be, and just do something about it' situations," Golas said of the restaurant, which also seats nearly 35 patrons in two indoor dining rooms.
"There's so much potential here, and it could be so much better."
Golas said he and Bird struck a deal with Afanador two years ago to make a pitch to the Park District and reopen a new restaurant as partners.
"There won't be a piece of anything in the kitchen, dining room or patio that won't be either replaced or upgraded via refurbishing or refinishing," Golas said.
The Park District liked his pitch, he said, though officials did not respond to requests for comment.
"We have a great working relationship with them," Golas said, which will be necessary moving forward, since Park District programming in the building will overlap with the restaurant's hours.
"We worked really closely with the Park District and the city of Chicago and inspectors for the fencing and everything around [the patio] to make sure it exceeded what they wanted in terms of the delivery of the alcohol," Golas said. That includes adding fences to the 2,500-square-foot patio that's part of the restaurant, half of the total patio area.
"We're probably more concerned with the whole liquor-on-site thing than they are," he said.
Golas said The Spoke & Bird will start with breakfast and lunch , working off a scaled-back menu that emphasizes paninis and sandwiches made with local produce, and a crepe-heavy morning lineup.
The team plans to change the menu every two weeks in order to serve fresh ingredients in season. In October — if there's sufficient demand — Golas said they planned to add dinner and keep the patio open later.
"We plan on adding a little more casual furniture to the patio ... some outdoor sofas and chairs to make it a little more — I don't want to use the term 'loungey,' because we are sensitive that there's a community field house there and parks and kids nearby," he said.
"There's just so much potential here and it could be so much better," he said. "That tree-covered patio: it's just such a nice space."
The restaurant is in talks with local breweries, including fellow South Loop business Vice District Brewing Co., to have Chicago-made beer and wine on tap.
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