LINCOLN PARK — Gemini is back this week, still a beloved American bistro, if no longer in name.
The former Gemini Bistro expects to reopen Wednesday after a four-month renovation as Gemini, still at 2075 N. Lincoln Ave.
"The life span of restaurants usually lasts between seven and 10 years," partner Ryan O'Donnell said Friday. "You have to do some sort of reconcepting or renovation to the facilities."
With the restaurant closed for the worst weather months of the year, O'Donnell added, "The timing just worked out to gut the whole place and rejuvenate the whole concept."
With the attitude that if it ain't broke, don't fix it, Gemini got more of a renovation than a new concept. A destination restaurant as a former Michelin Bib Gourmand winner, it has overhauled the interior with a new centrally placed marble-top, U-shaped bar, intended to welcome neighborhood residents who may be on their way out or coming back from a night on the town, or just dropping by.
That plays to the strengths of partner Pauly Graves behind the bar. He's taken the "Squirtsky," a concoction he developed from the vodka and Squirt he and O'Donnell drank in their college days, and actually put it on tap, now with Next Star, Finlandia Grapefruit, lime, grapefruit and soda.
Graves is also adding the San Pancho, something he came up with visiting Mexico while the restaurant was shuttered, made from Sanalipas Mezcal, Milagro, crushed pineapple, lime and habanero bitters.
They'll have seven beers on tap, five local, and a tiered array of wines set by price from $42-$120.
"The food and the concept is still definitely neighborhood bistro," Graves said, and O'Donnell agreed. Chef Miguel Ortiz remains a holdover, and Gemini staples like the burger with Monterey Jack and pancetta crisp were retained.
O'Donnell added, however, that a ravioli that "had a cult following" has been tweaked as an oxtail agnolotti, while duck confit nachos some diners might recall from the restaurant's earliest days have been revived to, he said, "throw a little nostalgia factor in there."
O'Donnell estimated the average dinner tab at $50, including drinks, but Graves added, "If you were to come into the bar and have a burger and a draft you could get in and out of here for $20."
They'll encourage that sort of spontaneous drop-in on Thursdays by having local artist Piano Stu play at the bar from 9 p.m. to closing. Asked if he's related to Disco Stu on "The Simpsons," Graves said no but "they might be distant cousins."