WRIGLEYVILLE — Since 1986, Edward Cheung has owned Orbit Salon, 3481 N. Clark St. But as microbusinesses and shared spaces become more popular in the pricey Lakeview market, Cheung decided to change things up and add a cafe and bar.
"We love the neighborhood, but the overhead is extremely high now," Cheung said Wednesday. "I think we need a restaurant in the area. It's nothing but bars right now, and we want to bring in some serious food."
The property is now split so Orbit uses one-third of the building, leaving 30,000 square feet for Nola Cafe and Bar, a new restaurant Cheung hopes to open in the next couple months as construction wraps up. Work began on the renovations in November 2014 and cost an estimated $90,000, according to city records.
Nola, short for North Lakeview, will offer a fusion of Latin America and Asian cuisines. The menu offers flatbread pizzas for $8 and appetizers like calamari tempura and bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers also for $8.
Nola will seat 54 and include a bar and coffee area. The owners also intend to offer a sushi and ceviche bar on weekends with maki, sashimi and nigiri.
Preliminary plans for Nola restaurant include a U-shaped center area for a bar, coffee area and sushi and ceviche bar and seats for 54 people. [Provided/Nola Cafe]
In addition to $3.50 tacos, Nola will make taco-eggrolls called tacros. Both can be made with fish, Sichuan rib roast, Korean grilled short rib, chicken, shrimp and veggies.
Salads, wings and Japanese meat skewers called yakitori are small-plate options, and $12 sandwiches include the Korean grilled short rib with pickled daikon and a breaded steak with garlic potato mash.
Nola also intends to offer breakfast dishes like lemon strawberry brioche French toast ($11) and dim sum options.
Sandy Chen, alum of Chens in Lakeview and Koi Sushi in Evanston, will handle daily operations at the restaurant while Cheung continues to run the salon. Executive chef Gianina Gomez heads the kitchen with 24 years of experience with Peruvian, Columbian and Chinese cuisine.
While Cheung said renovations are nearly complete, residents at Wednesday's Triangle Neighbors meeting expressed concern about Nola's proposed hours and plans for a liquor license.
Triangle Neighbors has been "very concerned" and cautious about supporting new liquor licenses on an already-crowded Clark Street in Wrigleyville, said John Becvar, president of the group.
The restaurant plans to stay open until midnight on weekdays and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, which doesn't jive with its owners' insistence that it will not operate like a bar, but only serve alcohol with meals, neighbors said.
"It begs the question of how many people are coming in and eating meals at 2 in the morning," neighbor Kimberly Ross said.
Cheung and co-owner David Bevan said they would be willing to drop "the bar" from Nola Cafe's name if that would help with appearances. Promising to serve food until close, they said alcohol consumption would be "incidental," with 75 percent of sales coming from food.
With the application already submitted, neighbors feared they had little swaying power. While Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) typically supports the position neighborhood organizations take on such issues, aldermen don't have final say in whether a business gets its license.
Cheung and Bevan agreed to make their operating plan a condition of the liquor license, meaning even if the business is sold, new owners would have to comply with the same rules or reapply for a new license. Otherwise, the liquor license would extend to expansions or other uses for the property.
"I don't think anybody doubts your intentions," Ross said. "The issue is what happens in the future, if that next person comes in and wants that younger crowd in a bar."
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