Grieving fans of the late Lo-Cal Locale might be excited to know that a new restaurant is moving in to punch their yogurt cards. Charlie Trotter today announced plans for his first new restaurant in Chicago since he opened his namesake spot in 1987 and fundamentally changed the restaurant scene in this town. He did open the takeout Trotter’s To Go on Fullerton in 2000, but this time the idea is much grander: Trotter will be responsible for all food and beverage operations at the Elysian Hotel, the planned luxury hotel and residence set to open in 2008 at 11 E. Walton.
The Elysian is a monster: 60 retro stories occuping the entire trapezoid bounded by Walton and Delaware, State and Rush. Designed by Lucien Lagrange, of the teeteringly ginormous Park Tower at Water Tower, among other buildings, it is already loaded with the kind of intent and marketing that makes it seem funny we still talk about the 80s as the decade of excess. Their website teases: “Coco Chanel. Frank Sinatra. The Duchess of Windsor. At one time, all of them resided in world-famous hotels. And now that life can be yours.” I always thought there was something tatty as well as glamorous about globe-trotting old mooches like Wallis who lived in hotels, meself, but I understand the appeal. The Elysian will have, in addition to approximately 150 hotel and condo units, what looks like a mansard-roof hat, a four-story spa, and a “European auto courtyard.”
Trotter has had high-profile expansions in the works in the past, but for one reason or another they haven’t panned out. Most recently (and publicly) he cancelled plans to open a seafood restaurant in the Time-Warner Center in New York and in 2003 he pulled out as anchor tenant at Paul Allen’s Hospital complex in London. (He did open C at the One & Only Palmilla resort in Los Cabos, Mexico, in 2004.) However, as Crain’s points out, this development is slightly different. In addition to being in town, Trotter is aligning himself tightly with a hotel, as Rick Tramanto and Gale Gand of Tru have recently done with the Westin North Shore in Wheeling. And founding partner and CEO of the Elysian’s development company, David Pisor, is no stranger to the fine food world. His aunt is Alice Waters, of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, and his father founded an artisanal bread company in Traverse City, Michigan.
The food will supposedly be much the same as found on Armitage, at least in the one Elysian restaurant that will be open for dinner only; there’ll also be a more traditional hotel dining room open all day. But the across-the-board plan is not for “a stamped-out, high-end experience,” says Charlie, “but something that is really personal and has a genuineness about it.”