JEFFERSON PARK — As plans for Lake Effect Brewing Company’s new firehouse brewery inch forward, another Northwest Side business is joining the team to operate the brewery’s kitchen.
North Branch Fried Chicken, 5481 N. Northwest Highway, will head up the kitchen at 4841 N. Lipps Ave., which should be open by this time next year, brewery owner Clint Bautz said.
The partnership will bring beer, barbecue, fried chicken and burgers together under one roof for a “fun and creative and delicious collaboration,” Bautz said.
“It’s an exciting time,” Bautz said. “It’s two businesses working [and] growing together and we are both Northwest Siders. We can’t wait to get open.”
North Branch Fried Chicken, which opened its Gladstone Park restaurant a year ago, specializes in Chicago-style barbecue sauces, rubs, savory jams, competes and casual chicken meals. It pivoted from selling at farmers markets to opening a restaurant during the pandemic.
Some of that is thanks to Bautz, said restaurant owner John Badal, who operates the business with his wife.
Before making the collaboration for the firehouse space a permanent move, the two businesses partnered for private events and special orders to see what it would be like to work together and pair their products.
Badal said it was a perfect fit and he and Bautz see eye-to-eye in terms of business goals and cuisine.
“Clint is a great proponent of small businesses and pairing with other businesses,” Badal said. “He opened the door to his clientele that was supportive, and so we got another customer base from there. We never looked back.”
The chef said folks can expect North Branch Fried Chicken’s signature items, but he also plans to have rotating dishes on the menu that will pair well with Lake Effect’s beers, as well as collaborations for special or private events.
He plans to offer dishes like shrimp and grits with sun-dried pimiento cheese, as well as expand his collection of spice sauces and barbecue options — while keeping his Chicago twist on country staples and local sourcing.
“There’s a gourmet barbecue aspect to our cuisine — using real ingredients, working with farmers and elevating the kitchen,” Badal said.
Bautz said the firehouse has been fully cleaned, but the team is still working on final plans for the space and fixing environmental issues with developer Ambrosia Homes, which has worked with the brewery since 2016. The firehouse was built in 1906 but has long sat vacant. City Council agreed to sell the firehouse to Ambrosia for $1 earlier this year.
An official name for the brewery is still being worked out. For now, he’s calling it the Lake Effect firehouse.
Along with the brewery on the first floor, nine rental loft apartments are planned for the higher levels.
Ambrosia President Tim Pomaville navigated the city’s departments for years to acquire the property. He previously told Block Club he’s excited the sale finally went through and is eager to get started. After cleaning up lead paint on the property — a project Pomaville estimates will cost $200,000 — he said the build-out of everything else can start once permits are secured.
Pomaville said there are plans to host a grand opening party at the completion of the $2.4 million project.
“When we get to the point for a grand opening, hopefully the pandemic will be over and we’re planning to have a massive party for the entire neighborhood,” Pomaville said.
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