BUCKTOWN — Marc Wuenschel has more than 35 years in the restaurant industry and has opened restaurants across Chicago, but the West Town resident has long envisioned opening a spot in Bucktown.
This week he’s realizing that dream.
Savannah Luncheonette, 1954 W. Armitage Ave., opens Thursday in the former home of Gigi’s Kitchen, which closed earlier this year. The restaurant is a sister establishment to Savannah Supper Club, which opened this year in Roscoe Village.
Wuenschel, who also owns Hutch Cafe in River North and Hutch Bistro in Lakeview, said he looks forward to introducing his culinary ideas to Bucktown neighbors. He lives along Damen Avenue himself in West Town, near Chicago Avenue.
“We’re local people who live here,” he said. “We want people to come here not once a month but twice a week.”
The Savannah Luncheonette menu highlights “old school” comfort food, including tender chicken thighs and stuffed mushrooms. Cocktails are made with Savannah-labeled liquors crafted by CelloVia, of suburban Wheeling.
Wuenschel said he’s aiming to keep prices reasonable with $6 happy hour cocktails, wood-fired pizzas priced $13-$15 and a $38 wood-fired whole rotisserie chicken dinner package to-go.
In opening Savannah Luncheonette during the coronavirus pandemic, Wuenschel defied the odds. But he’s been on the other end, too: COVID-19 forced him to close a third Hutch location in Andersonville.
Keeping restaurants open is costly. Wuenschel estimated he spends $400-$500 per week on materials like sanitizer, face masks and disposable paper menus. While some restaurants added a “COVID charge” to guests’ bills, Wuenschel said he hopes he won’t have to do that.
“I’m spending $50 on a box of masks, up from $14 a box. … Gloves used to be $64 a case … [now they cost] $120 a case,” he said. “We’ve absorbed the cost right now.”
Savannah Luncheonette does not have a patio, but with a retractable garage door window, the interior of the restaurant can seat about 30 customers depending on party size, Wuenschel said.
During the pandemic, Wuenschel was able to keep a handful of employees on his company health insurance program, for which he pays 50 percent of costs. Putting new employees on insurance is a “long-term goal,” he said.
Wuenschel also partnered with Fight2Feed, a hunger relief organization. He plans to continue that partnership and is looking for a permanent kitchen location.
The restaurant owner has more than three decades of experience in the service industry as a chef and corporate leader. Before starting the Hutch American Concepts company in 2013 he was the CEO of Restaurants America, the parent company of Bar Louie.
Wuenschel also hopes to open another Bucktown restaurant inside the former Luella’s Gospel Bird spot at 2009 N. Damen Ave.
“People are craving new stuff,” he said. “We’re the new kid on the block. … We hope to see a good response here.”
Savannah Luncheonatte’s initial hours will be 4-9:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 4-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 4-9 p.m. Sunday. “Special hour” is 4-6 p.m. daily. Weekend brunch service is in the works.
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