LOGAN SQUARE — About seven months after opening charcuterie and sandwich spot Lardon across from the California Blue Line station, its owners are gearing up to open a “moody” bar and restaurant next door.
Steve Lewis and Chris Thompson of Meadowlark Hospitality are putting the finishing touches on Union at 2202 N. California Ave., with the goal of opening the spot in early March.
Unlike Lardon — an all-day salumeria that serves coffee in the mornings and sandwiches with in-house cured meats in the afternoon and evening — Union will be a traditional bar and restaurant only open at night and focused on locally brewed beer and new American cuisine, the owners said.
The bar and restaurant will have 24 local beers on tap, as well as a wide selection of whiskey and a biodynamic and boutique wine list. Its food menu will include a range of dishes, some using Lardon ingredients, like bresaola tartine, or buttered sourdough with stracchino cheese, three-month dry cured beef bresaola, fried sage, pickled balsamic blackberries and sage oil, and lamb and pistachio meatballs topped with pomegranate, fennel and caper salsa verde.
Thompson, Lardon’s chef, is behind the food menu. Before Lardon, Thompson was a partner at Coda di Volpe in Lakeview. He was also the executive chef at A16 in San Francisco and helped launch The Nickel in Denver.
At Union, Thompson said he’s going for a menu that complements the bar and restaurant’s “dark and moody” vibes.
“We’re straddling that line between restaurant and bar. We definitely didn’t want to open a pub and we didn’t didn’t want to open a fine dining restaurant. We’re navigating that comfortable area that exists between two two things and it’s very at home in Logan Square,” he said.
Lewis ran Centennial Crafted Beer + Eatery in River North before launching Meadowlark Hospitality with Thompson in 2020.
For their first project together, the two opened Lardon in an 110-year-old building at California Avenue and Palmer Street last summer after months of delays. The building was previously home to restaurant and music venue Township.
Lewis and Thompson intended to open Union in the space next door around the same time, but the pandemic kept pushing their timeline back.
Now, with Lardon racking up rave reviews, and the Omicron surge subsiding, the pair said they’re finally ready to turn their attention to Union.
Union’s space, formerly occupied by Township’s music venue, was in “complete disrepair” when Lewis and Thompson took over the building, suffering from years of “wear and tear,” they said. But over the last few months, they’ve transformed the space into a neighborhood bar and restaurant with exposed brick, dark wood tables and a 25-foot-long bar.
In designing Union, Lewis said they drew inspiration from “gritty East Village bars and restaurants, but [with the] warmth of the London pub scene and mixing in the broad shoulders of Chicago.”
Thompson added, “It feels like the kind of room you want to be in. It’s comfortable, it’s cozy, it feels cool but it doesn’t feel pretentious.”
Union is opening as Chicago’s restaurant and bar industry continues to navigate the ongoing pandemic. Lardon, which has seen success in spite of the public health crisis, has had to shut down a few times in recent months after employees and staffers tested positive for COVID-19.
But Lewis said things are improving now that the Omicron wave is receding and their staff at Lardon is “happy and healthy,” which gives them hope for Union.
“It’s unfortunate times we’re facing, but that’s what’s so great about the Chicago restaurant industry is: We will prevail,” he said. “This is a way of life for us, to be able to get through this, to do what Chicagoans have always done, to fight and make it work.”
For opening updates, visit Union’s Instagram.
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