LAKEVIEW — The first of three Boka-owned restaurants coming to the former Southport Lanes building in Lakeview opens next week.
GG’s Chicken Shop, 3325 N. Southport Ave., opens Tuesday, offering rotisserie chickens, sandwiches, salads and sides for walk-up counter service, carryout or delivery, according to an announcement from Boka.
The restaurant is from Michelin-starred chef Lee Wolen, who named the spot after his mom, Geri, known as GG by her friends, according to Boka. The menu is inspired by Wolen’s family meals.
The restaurant started as a ghost kitchen operating out of Boka’s flagship restaurant early in the pandemic, Rob Katz, Boka co-CEO and co-founder, previously told Block Club. It was a pivot after plans to open a brick-and-mortar GG’s stalled in March 2020.
“When diners started returning to restaurants, we no longer had enough room in the kitchen for both restaurants,” Wolen said. “We’re really excited to bring GG’s back, alongside some new, delicious menu items.”
The fast-casual restaurant features a wall of spinning rotisserie chickens that can be bought as a quarter, half or whole, according to Boka.
Classic menu items include the crispy fried chicken sandwich, chicken salad with dried cranberries and pickled red onion and a chicken burger, according to Boka. GG’s also serves salads like the grain bowl, kale and Brussels and the California, which has leafy greens, avocado, cucumber, sunflower seeds, sesame sticks, roasted sweet potato and cracked bulgur with tahini miso dressing.
Sides include waffle fries, sweet elote corn, mac and cheese, broccoli slaw and dill schmaltz smashed potatoes, according to Boka.
Brand Bureau, the restaurant’s interior design firm, used open pantries as an inspiration. The design primarily uses a forest green color juxtaposed against checkerboard tiles and houndstooth upholstery that are a nod to classic apron and tablecloth patterns.
The red in GG’s chicken logo is used as an accent throughout the restaurant, while the tables and millwork mimic the round shape of the logo, according to Boka.
An open kitchen anchors the space and is framed by overhead menus and pantry cubbies, allowing for everyone to see how the chicken is cooked, according to Boka.
GG’s is one of three restaurants moving into the Southport Lanes building. It will be joined by Japanese restaurant Itoko by chef Gene Kato and Little Goat Diner by chef Stephanie Izard.
Itoko — the Japanese word for “cousin” — will feature sushi rolls with high-quality fish, according to Boka. The drink menu will focus on cocktails and highballs.
The restaurant will also have a sake program designed to demystify the Japanese spirit, according to Boka.
Little Goat, which is relocating from the West Loop, will offer a fresh take on the restaurant’s menu of creative, gourmet takes on classic comfort foods, Katz perviously said.
Southport Lanes, a restaurant and bowling alley in Lakeview, closed in late 2020 after months of being shut down because of the pandemic. Its owners announced in July 2021 it would remain closed for good.
Southport Lanes has long been a part of Chicago lore given its history as a classic tavern that turned into a speakeasy and brothel during Prohibition.
The bar was built by Schlitz Brewery around 1900 and named The Nook. But in 1922, federal laws banned brewers from owning taverns, so its name was changed to Southport Lanes and four hand-set bowling lanes were added.
The tavern became a speakeasy with an upstairs brothel during the 1920s, according to Southport Lanes’ website. The building still has a dumbwaiter that was used to bring refreshments to the women and their clients.
When Prohibition ended, a building went up east of the bar room, which Southport Lanes used as the billiards room. That originally housed an illegal gambling facility, and it became a beer hall for rent and a local polling place in the ’50s.
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