LINCOLN PARK — Jason Noel thinks that if a chef keeps his work fresh, customers can't help but find the food fresh as well.
Noel, who has specialized in American, Latin American and South American cuisine, as well as regional offshoots like Cajun, Creole and Caribbean, is set to open his own place as chef and owner of Devour 312, at 1450 W. Webster Ave.
"It was time for me to do my own thing," Noel said this week, as he prepared to open the restaurant next month.
Noel most recently worked at Square Bar & Grill in Avondale at 2849 W. Belmont Ave., where he stood toe to toe with the original Kuma's across the street and guided the restaurant to victory in last year's Roscoe Village Burger Fest. "We were more considered a burger bar," he said.
Now, however, he intends to give free rein to the full range of his cooking background, serving up "whatever I can get from my purveyors and my mind comes up with."
Devour 312 replaces what had been a taqueria, but that one-dimensional approach will be jettisoned, with Noel planning to offer fish, steaks and an array of Pan-American dishes.
"I like to give people a little bit of everything," Noel said, adding that his menu is "definitely not focused on one particular cuisine."
At the same time, he won't be abandoning burgers, as he plans to bring over a surf-and-turf burger with a wagyu beef patty from Square Bar, as well as a Cajun burger with grilled andouille sausage. Sandwiches and wraps will be offered too.
The emphasis across the board, he said, will be on freshness and fresh ingredients.
"Everything here is fresh," Noel said. "We don't do frozen burgers. We don't do mozzarella sticks."
Noel expects to keep the atmosphere similarly eclectic, with TVs for sports, but also an array of '90s pop played in the front room spanning the decade's indie, R&B and hip-hop music.
Noel is aiming to establish something family-friendly with "just a nice atmosphere and great food," with a "killer beer" selection focused on local and regional craft beers and microbrews.
Noel plans a soft opening in early August, with a formal opening mid-month.