A Reborn Tavern on Rush Should Open This Summer

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Phil Stefani has mellowed since the emotional ride of closing Tavern on Rush in October 2022, ending a 24-year run in Gold Coast. Stefani, along with his daughter Gina and son Anthony, are preparing to relaunch the celebrated restaurant around the corner from the original inside the Thompson Hotel. Crews have been busy gutting the former Nico Osteria.

The fabled Chicago restaurateur says he didn’t truly understand the meaning of “iconic” until he saw five TV stations doing live shots from inside his restaurant on the night it closed.

“What made Tavern — it wasn’t bricks and mortar,” Phil Stefani says. “Tavern was made by the people who frequented it and by the staff who worked there. And this is what we want to duplicate.”

The new Tavern on Rush, at the corner of Rush Street and Bellevue, will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They’re targeting a June opening and will also provide room service for hotel guests. There will be more emphasis on brunch, so folks won’t have to wait in line at the Original Pancake House down the street for a morning option. Fortunately, Gina Stefani has plenty of brunch experience from Mad Social, a since-shuttered weekend brunch destination in West Loop. She is excited about offering breakfast and lunch options for those with early business meetings seven days a week.

“How many times do you just drive by a breakfast place and they have lines out the door — they’re longer than bars at night now,” she says.

A rendering of the staircase at Tavern on Rush.
A rendering of the staircase at Tavern on Rush.
555 International

But that doesn’t mean the new Tavern is solely pandering to fans of Early Bird Specials. Anthony Stefani says they want to get back to the restaurant’s roots “where you can either come and enjoy the vibe” with a few libations or “have a full Chicago steakhouse experience.” Anthony Stefani doesn’t want the space to feel overly modern or flashy but sees this as an opportunity to establish Tavern on Rush as one of the city’s best steakhouses. He’s working with 555 International on the two-level, 16,000-square-foot space’s design. It will include a cocktail lounge, bar, outdoor patio, and multiple private event rooms.

While it’s important to tap into the new, Gina Stefani doesn’t want to run away from her family’s strengths: “Times change, but sticking to the classics, I feel you just can’t go wrong,” she says. “And I think that’s what we do best.”

Her father adds: “It’s unfortunate that places come and go and are hot and cold, but we want to be here for the next 25 years.”

A rendering of Tavern on Rush’s new bar.
Tavern on Rush wants to retain the lively bar element of the original.
555 International

Phil Stefani and his team made Tavern a lively spot where celebrities, from Bon Jovi to Michael Jordan, felt comfortable. He calls the area the “heart of the city,” as it’s near Oak Street Beach and the Mag Mile. Pre-COVID, guests at downtown hotels were the ones who helped fill up Gold Coast restaurants. Tourism appears to be on the upswing and that prompted Phil Stefani to mention how he enjoys seeing the area bustle feeding off the energy of other restaurants like Gibsons and Maple & Ash. A new Carmine’s is also planned.

“If one place is completely full, they can go to the next place and have a cocktail, and vice versa,” Phil Stefani says.

Phil Stefani could read the tea leaves and had been preparing since 2020 for an exit. The landlord at Rush Street wanted to move in another direction and it was time for Stefani and company to pack up. It wasn’t a happy split, but Stefani says time has healed wounds. He’s been eating breakfast every Saturday at the new restaurant, Bellevue, for the past two months.

Many familiar faces from the original restaurant will work at the new one. That includes Benny Nadzaku, Tavern on Rush’s manager. Anthony Stefani says Nadzaku wields more power than his father. If a patron wants a prime patio table, they need to buddy up with Nadzaku.

Tavern on Rush, 1015 N. Rush Street, planned for a June opening

Tavern On Rush

1031 North Rush Street, , IL 60611 (312) 664-9600 Visit Website

Nico Osteria

1015 North Rush Street, , IL 60611 (312) 994-7100 Visit Website

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