A New Lincoln Park Steakhouse Features Speakeasy Vibes and Fancy Beef Boards

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The owners of Lincoln Park’s Sapori Trattoria are opening “a boutique steakhouse with a bit of a modern speakeasy vibe” down the street from their Italian restaurant.

Butcher and the Bear, 2721 N. Halsted Street, brings an upscale, low-lit retreat to the former home of Mexican restaurant Mayan Palace. Kosti Demos, a former trader who grew up in a family of restaurant owners, left the finance world to take over Sapori Trattoria in 2021: “It was nice to take Sapori, make improvements, and increase sales, but we’re able to start from scratch,” Demos says.

It’s the first of two new restaurants Demos has planned for 2024. If all goes according to plan, he’ll unveil Ilios, a modern Greek restaurant that leans toward fine dining, this summer at 310 S. Halsted Street in Greektown. Tandoor Char House’s Faraz Sardharia is a partner in that project.

Steaks are the centerpiece of the menu, which is where the restaurant’s other partners, Chris and Susie Maloyan, come into play. The couple owns Second City Prime, an Illinois-based meat and seafood distributor that provides high-end proteins for Chicago restaurants including Sapori. That relationship with Second City Prime is designed to pay off for partners and patrons.

“We’re able to offer all their steaks at a reasonable price, $140 [for a wagyu tasting] instead of paying $500 in River North,” Demos says. “We know we’re still in the neighborhood, we’re not trying to be downtown.”

Second City’s goods are on full display with options including a 20-ounce bone-in ribeye and a 14-ounce New York strip alongside a mammoth 16-ounce double-boned pork chop. The most opulent option, however, is the wagyu steaks tasting board, which for $140 features a lineup of Australian and Japanese cuts. For a market price up-charge, patrons can add a bone marrow butter-poached lobster for a surf-and-turf twist. It all serves to explain the restaurant’s name, Demos says. No, Carmy Berzatto isn’t trapped in the walk-in. Rather, Chris Maloyan is the butcher, while Ramos has gone by the nickname “the bear.”

Chef and partner Saul Ramos (Barton G., Siena Tavern) is helming the steakhouse. Seafood is also plentiful across the menu, from two types of crudo and Oysters Rockefeller to entrees such as scallops with poblano cream sauce and umami-marinated sea bass. Demos points to the menu’s sole pasta dish — wagyu beef cheek with cavatelli and aged fontina — as a noteworthy highlight that will remain on the menu, even as others change with the seasons.

Just as the team is serving global cuisine, it also is pouring global wines, says Demos. The restaurant has opened with a selection of 80 bottles from California, Washington, Italy, and France. He plans for the list to grow over time as the food menu changes and expands. The same applies to the cocktail list, which currently features six drinks including an olive oil martini. Patrons can also expect to see syrups and infusions made onsite — an increasingly popular approach in well-appointed bars and restaurants.

The 4,500-square-foot space contains a main floor with a 10-seat bar, an elevated dining room, and another dining area on a lower level (“a bear den,” Demos deadpans). The restaurant seats 80 and is decorated in dark green and red inspired by the team’s research into old speakeasy aesthetics. Framed portraits of a bear mascot dot the space, and little bears are hidden throughout the design.

Butcher and the Bear is near another neighborhood steakhouse, Select Cut, a casual staple since 1994. Demos says he wasn’t aware that they’d be neighbors when the partners signed the lease, but he’s confident that their differing styles and clientele mean there’s room for both on Halsted.

Butcher and the Bear, 2721 N. Halsted Street, Open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, Reservations available via OpenTable.

Butcher and the Bear

2721 N. Halsted Street, Chicago, IL 60614 (708) 205-5341 Visit Website

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