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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Fried Chicken Joint Heads To Former Red Apple At Busy Ukrainian Village Corner

"It will be a full blown sit-down restaurant with 45 seats," said owner Ira Sweiss, who will be using Louisiana Famous Fried Chicken recipes.

Fried chicken joint Backyard Chic, using recipes from the Louisiana Famous Fried Chicken chain, is coming to the shuttered Red Apple storefront at 2000 W. Chicago Ave.
Alisa Hauser/Block Club Chicago
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UKRAINIAN VILLAGE— Recipes from a Los Angeles-based fried chicken chain will serve as the blueprint for a new restaurant called Backyard Chic that’s headed to the shuttered Red Apple in Ukrainian Village. 

Ira Sweiss, who owned the Red Apple convenience store at 2000 W. Chicago Ave., said he will be the Chicago-based master franchisee for Louisiana Famous Fried Chicken. He will use recipes from the chain but the arrangement will allow him to name his restaurant Backyard Chic, add other items to the menu, and bring his own neighborhood-centic touches to the eatery.

“It will be a full blown sit-down restaurant with 45 seats,” said Sweiss, who also owns a Shell station two blocks north of the future Backyard Chic.

Sweiss, who recently received a building permit for the project, plans to pump more than $200,000 into an interior rehab and add windows along the Damen-facing side of the building, at the northwest corner of Chicago and Damen.

If everything goes as planned, Backyard Chic will debut early next year. Once open, it’ll be surrounded by other casual dining options at the bustling corner, home to a McDonald’s, Subway and the independently-owned El Metro tacos. 

The former Red Apple opened in 2011 and has sat empty since 2014. In 2012, a year after Red Apple opened, the city denied Sweiss’s packaged goods liquor license request after community members voiced concerns over increased crime and criminal activity near corner liquor stores. 

Two years ago, Sweiss introduced a plan to replace the Red Apple with the Olive Branch Neighborhood Market, a packaged goods liquor store that would offer seating and made-to-order panini sandwiches. That plan was ballyhooed by neighbors  in an October 2016 community meeting that drew a sizable crowd despite a simultaneously happening Cubs playoff game.

“The community did not want it. I listened to the community and I’m planning to meet with community groups to get their input and feedback [on Backyard Chic],” Sweiss said.

Backyard Chic plans to serve beer and wine and will need an incidental liquor license to do that, Sweiss said. 

“It’s not a tavern. No one will be coming there to drink. We will be closed by 9 or 10 p.m. on the weekdays and maybe stay open until midnight at the latest on weekends,” Sweiss said. He said the atmosphere at Backyard Chic will be similar to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in Fulton Market, which also serves beer but is primarily focused on food.

West Town Chamber of Commerce executive director Kara Salgado declined to comment on the proposed restaurant, saying she needs to learn more about the concept. 

Salgado said that the future of the corner space has been “off the radar” for the past few years, but after recently hearing about Backyard Chic from the Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association’s meeting minutes, the chamber executive board put the topic on its agenda for an upcoming board meeting.

The building at 2000-2002 W. Chicago Ave. also includes tobacco and snack shop The Smoke Hut, next to the former Red Apple.