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Fab Five: Design-Forward Dining

Katlyn Tolly | February 3, 2017 | Feature Features

Though a well-seasoned meal is crucial to the dining experience, ambiance is equally important. Here, a round-up of spots around town that deliver in design.
Inside Wicker Park's Dixie

1. Dixie
What once served as a Bucktown cottage home in the 1880s has flourished into what is now an “antebellum plantation” known for Southern-styled cooking and seasonal craft cocktails. Design firm blocHaus revamped the two-floor saloon with interior touches inspired by the Old South. Design details: handpainted gold oyster shells serving as a backdrop (a nod to the South’s symbolism of oysters for luck), communal navy-tufted seating, cozy art-filled alcoves and Civil War artifacts (old letters, photos, and silverware). 1952 N. Damen Ave., 773.688.4466

2. El Che Bar
As an ode to Argentina, El Che Bar’s design was heavily inspired by chef John Manion’s time eating and traveling in the South American country. Nitewerk worked with Manion to design the eclectic West Loop restaurant known for its Argentinean-American food cooked on a custom-built grill. Design details: fire-wood hearth, black pillars, dark glossy marble counters, neon-lit sign and assorted exotic plants. 845 W. Washington Blvd., 312.265.1130

3. GT Prime
Well known restaurant designer Karen Herold from Studio K created this sleek, River North space that’s a lovely mix of a whimsical hunting lodge and a fairy-tale forest. In addition to the cozy main dining area decorated with large still life-like portraits of food on its wood-paneled walls, there’s an upstairs private dining space overlooking the open kitchen. Design details: bar stools accented with faux fur, a huge custom chandelier, cabernet-tinted concrete floors and majestic taxidermy accents. 707 N. Wells St., 312.600.6305

4. Smyth + the Loyalist
The West Loop restaurant is split into two levels with fine dining restaurant Smyth on the top level and the more casual Loyalist in the basement. Designer Jacob Wright centered the restaurant’s layout around the idea of the “approachable artisan” by creating a space for both premium dining and informal lounging. Design Details: Wooden pillars, exposed brick, concrete floors, distressed arabesque area rugs and modern-industrial lighting fixtures. 177 N. Ada St., 773.913.3773

5. Bad Hunter
Though mostly praised for being one of the few restaurants spotlighting vegetables on its menu, its dining environment is just as refreshing. Kevin Heisner from Heisler Hospitality designed the light-washed West Loop restaurant that features natural lighting and vibrant greenery. Design Details: cream brick walls, vintage mirrors, tan leather chairs matching the custom woodwork, gray stone table tops and vintage french doors that lead to a relaxed dining and bar area. 802 W. Randolph St., 312.265.1745


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