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Rogers Park Restaurant Hosts Florida Keys Pop-Up: ‘Bringing Some Warmth to Chicago’

A Caribbean-themed menu and decor will be available at Onward through March 8.

The interior of Onward was decorated for a Florida Keys pop-up earlier this year.
Credit: Madison Olszewski
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ROGERS PARK — The winter doldrums are setting in around Chicago, and a Rogers Park restaurant is seeking to provide temporary relief.

On Tuesday, Onward will debut its Key West pop-up and fundraiser. For two weeks, the restaurant at 6580 N. Sheridan Road will have a tropical decor and completely new menu, highlighting the Caribbean-inspired food native to the Florida Keys.

Onward’s owner, Michael Olszewski, and executive chef Patrick Russ have ties to Key West, the island city that is the southernmost point in Florida. Olszewski owns a home in the Keys, and Russ grew up visiting South Florida and went to culinary school in Miami.

“I missed that cuisine and that Floridian flavor,” Russ said. “We wanted to bring some of the Keys to the middle of winter in Chicago.”

That idea sparked the Florida Keys culinary takeover and fundraiser, where Onward will offer elevated takes on classic Key West foods while raising funds for charities seeking to preserve the Keys and its animal populations.

Lobster Lasagnette is one of the main dishes on Onward’s new Florida Keys-themed menu. [credit: Madison Olszewski]

Russ prepared 25 menu items for the 13-day pop-up. Highlights include the Bahamian conch chowder, a take on a popular Florida Keys dish made with a shellfish native to the area, and a raw bar offering named for famous Key West resident Ernest Hemingway.

For dessert, pastry chef Karianne Soulsby has made a classic key lime pie served with mango sorbet, fresh orange supremes and lime zest confetti. A new tiki cocktail menu from beverage director Vincente Romero has also been rolled out.

Onward is newly decorated with the bright pastel colors Key West is known for.

“We want to give that beach feeling, like you just stepped on to the beach,” Olszewski said. “Were bringing some warmth to the cold weather of Chicago.”

A portion of all sales during the pop-up will be donated to two organizations that protect and rehabilitate animals native to the Florida Keys. Funds will be donated to the Turtle Hospital and the Dolphin Research Center, both located in the Florida Keys.

Onward’s take on the Key lime pie. [credit: Madison Olszewski]

Opened in late 2018, Onward specializes in upscale versions of American comfort food. Olszewski opened Onward after the sudden closure of his Michelin-starred restaurant, Grace. The real estate investor-turned-restauranteur also owns celebrated West Loop hotspot Yugen.

This is the first such pop-up at Onward. Russ said the idea is a way to be creative with the restaurant and give customers a new experience.

“We’re still young,” Russ said. “We want to have fun, try things. We want to do something that is different for the area.”

The Key West pop-up at Onward, 6580 N. Sheridan Road, will run Tuesday through March 8. Onward is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays and is closed Mondays.

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