Centre Street Kitchen (1224 W. Webster Ave.) opened in Lincoln Park on Friday, October 4. Owned by industry veteran Erik Baylis, the restaurant bridges his two passions—hospitality and giving back—by offering guests the option to participate in the restaurant’s donation wall that commemorates the names of those who have battled cancer, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Never Had a Bad Day Foundation, a nonprofit providing monetary support to pediatric cancer patients and their families.
Baylis, a cancer survivor, is owner of Chicago-based Big Onion Hospitality and president of Never Had a Bad Day Foundation, which he helped co-found in 2016 and has a goal to raise $7 million with Centre Street Kitchen partnership.
Immediately after being seated, guests are asked to put down their menus and tell their dining companions what they appreciate about each other.
The restaurant will offer three distinct dining spaces and two full bars. The front dining room, where the donated names will continuously be engraved to decorate the blank walls, seats 55. The restaurant’s back dining room will seat 88 and opens to an outdoor patio with an additional 44 seats.
Keeping in mind the restaurant’s wall is donating to help people with a serious illness, Chefs Jim Heflin and Monica Riley (Hopleaf, LOKaL, Marigold) have created the menu to be more cognizant of health, keeping a lighter mentality by using less cream and butter and also including many veggie-centric plates.
Menu highlights include small plates like cast-iron Roasted Cauliflower with guajillo
glaze, lemon, toasted pumpkin seed and cotija cheese ($11.95); Grilled Squash with oven-dried tomato, za’atar, crispy kale, feta and shallot-tahini vinaigrette ($9.95); and Crab “Dip” with chive-avocado emulsion, piquillo pepper, preserved lemon, espelette and Old Bay-corn butter toast ($21.95). Meat dishes include Chicken Sopes made with pulled Amish chicken served in masa cups with pipián verde, cotija, pickled fresno chile and onion and cilantro salad ($15.95) and Gochujang Cabbage Wraps filled with house smoked heirloom pork shoulder, Korean red chile paste vinaigrette, cucumber slaw, tamari emulsion, toasted sesame and mint ($16.95).
Larger dinner plates, such as pan-roasted NY Strip with horseradish gremolata, charred summer beans and mushroom conserva ($48.95) and grilled Silk Snapper with fresno chile-garlic paste, braised black beans, watermelon radish salad and cilantro ($33.95) will also be available for dinner. Lunch-only items include the Chicken Sandwich with raclette, truffle-tomato confit aioli and avocado on a sprouted-grain hoagie, served with shoestring fries or house salad ($15.95) and the Mushroom Toast with mushroom conserva on sprouted rye with crème fraîche, herbs and baby kale, served with shoestring fries or house salad ($15.95).
The Beverage Program
Curated by Big Onion Hospitality Beverage Director Dave Brown, the bar menu at Centre Street Kitchen features twists on classic cocktails with fresh, homemade ingredients, an extensive whiskey list with a choose your own adventure flight option and a carefully curated selection of local craft beers. The restaurant has also collaborated with City Winery on an exclusive Centre Street Kitchen Cabernet Sauvignon ($13/glass; $52/bottle).
The Branding and Design
Working with Chicago interior designer Kate Birchfield, Centre Street Kitchen features a modern yet warm ambiance with natural elements and eclectic features. The clean design relies on neutral tones of cream, slate, and black with pops of color in planters installed through the restaurant. A pink neon sign reading “I’ve never had a bad day in my life,” the catchphrase of Owner Erik Baylis, is positioned for guests to take a photo with and share on social to spread the positive message. Guests can also add their handwritten wish, on a wine cork into the ‘wishing well’. As an homage to the restaurant’s name, vintage city maps can be found through the space. The outdoor patio feels like an oasis with a living green wall and comfortable navy and cream-colored furniture.