LOGAN SQUARE — A restaurant and bar with a rotating menu and chefs is coming to the heart of Logan Square.
LeQoinne Rice, one of the owners of now-closed Wicker Park bar Rhyme or Reason, is opening a “hybrid” restaurant and bar, called The Duplex, in the old Merchant spot at 3137 W. Logan Blvd. Rice plans for a soft opening May 21 and a grand opening in mid-June.
At The Duplex, the concepts — meaning the menu and the chefs — will rotate every six months. First up are fried chicken sandwiches from The Kluckerz and southern Californian and northern Mexican cuisine from Lime and Radish, concepts created by Rice and chefs he’s worked with. Rice plans to collaborate with a different set of chefs on dim sum and Caribbean food menus at the start of next year.
Rice said the objective is to give budding chefs a leg up in the restaurant industry.
“Our goal is to … collaborate with other chefs who don’t have the equity or finances to start their own restaurant,” he said. “The Duplex is a landlord. I call it a hybrid. You have your base menu, but you’re rotating things out.”
The Duplex is the first solo project for Rice, who has 20 years of experience working and running restaurants and bars in the Chicago area. In addition to operating Rhyme or Reason, Rice ran The Terrace in suburban Waukegan and worked for the restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You and Clutch Bar in River North.
The Duplex was born out of Clutch bar closing due to the pandemic. Rice and other chefs launched a pair of takeout and delivery concepts — Lime and Radish and The Kluckerz. After the business took off, Rice set his sights on opening a restaurant to serve as a home base.
“Our goal was 80 orders a week … . We started doing 200-240 orders a week. The idea was if I can find a space that I can house both brands instead of Cloud Kitchen or somewhere else where they’re taking all my money, I can start my own here,” he said.
Rice said he’s thrilled to strike out on his own with a restaurant and bar that will help chefs who otherwise might’ve had a difficult time breaking into the industry. He said he plans to split tips among the entire staff in an effort to treat long-neglected back-of-the-house employees fairly.
All of this is a response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has sparked a reckoning in the restaurant industry, Rice said.
“What I’ve always learned in the industry: As a server you’ll walk out with $600 and the guy who worked twice as hard as you did, twice as many hours, made a quarter of what you did. So we’re taking 3.5 percent of our sales and putting that into back-of-the-house,” he said.
The Duplex is replacing American restaurant Merchant, which closed during the pandemic. Before Merchant, the site was home to brunch spot Dunlay’s on the Square.
Rice has worked in the city for a decade but is originally from Waukegan. The Kendall College of Culinary Arts graduate said he chose the Logan Square property because of its close proximity to several critically acclaimed restaurants, like Daisies and Lula Cafe.
“You’ve got so many really good businesses in this neighborhood — and we just want to be a part of it,” he said.
For opening updates, follow The Duplex on Instagram.
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