The owners of Wildberry Cafe and Forno Rosso have teamed up for The Evie
When tourists from across the U.S. and the world visit Chicago, one of their first stops is often the Magnificent Mile. The city’s main commercial artery is home to spendy stores, noteworthy architecture, and, in recent years, a proliferation of out-of-town restaurant chains that could be, well, anywhere.
What the area is missing, in the estimation of Wildberry Cafe owner George Archos and Forno Rosso owner Nick Nitti, is a restaurant that demonstrates the city’s dining chops in the heart of tourist-town. The Evie, their new restaurant slated to open in the coming weeks in the former Bandera space at 535 N. Michigan Avenue, aims to do just that with a crowd-pleasing menu from veteran Chicago chef Phil Rubino complemented by a cinematic view of Michigan Avenue. Named for Archos’ daughter and mother, the restaurant is awaiting the last of its city permits before announcing an opening date.
Rubino, of shuttered Michelin-starred restaurants Spiaggia and L20, intends to set The Evie apart by emphasizing that broad culinary appeal can be an opportunity rather than a limitation. “Being on Michigan, you’ve got everybody — tourists, people who live here, people who work here and live in the suburbs,” he says. “You have to cater to that a little bit, but the trick is that you make the food really good and keep it approachable but fun.”
The menu features a straightforward lineup of starters (shrimp cocktail, steamed mussels, and grilled artichokes) and a Thai salad with mango and bok choy. The restaurant houses its own on-site bakery where the team makes buns and bread for the burger and sandwich selection, which includes butter-poached lobster rolls and juicy prime rib dips with au jus. Entrees are hearty and familiar, ranging from a 30-day dry-aged charred prime beef ribeye to chili honey-glazed Faroe Island salmon, but are balanced out by a light sushi menu of maki, nigiri, and sashimi.
Buried among all the options, eagle-eyed patrons will find Rubino’s spin on a local favorite — an American wagyu Chicago-style hot dog. A native of suburban Elmwood Park, Rubino forged a partnership with South Side sausage stalwart Makowski’s to produce an all-wagyu dog exclusively for The Evie. This will be different from Home Depot’s, which use Makowski for its basic dogs, but another vendor — Vander Farms — for its sagyu. The Evie’s version comes couched in a poppyseed bun and gilded with a chopped mix of relish, onions, yellow mustard, pickle, and celery salt. “No tomatoes,” Rubino intones, potentially courting controversy. “I don’t think they belong on a Chicago-style dog.”
Perched inside a 7,100-square-foot space on the building’s second floor, The Evie has retained the bones of its predecessor, which closed in March 2020 after nearly two decades. Bandera’s long, oval-shaped bar remains, as do its upholstered booths, and the space is still organized around its visual centerpiece — a row of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Mag Mile. Team members imagine shoppers grabbing a front-row seat and a pick-me-up cocktail, like a Yuzu Sour (Centenario Reposado, yuzu, lemon cordial) or Evie Negroni (Death’s Door, Campari, Punt e Mes, Antica Formul).
Aside from the static components, Chicago designer Aida Napoles has sought to bring The Evie into the future with a lighter, brighter feel achieved through textured white walls that resemble Venetian plaster, hand-cast sculptural light fixtures, and a diverse collection of artwork in elegant shadowboxes, all made by local fabricators.
Napoles, who is also designing forthcoming restaurant Diego in West Town, tapped Chicago artists Sal Dominguez and Eric Gushee of Artruss gallery to help create a modern museum sensibility with metallic sculptures and woven pieces that bring pops of color to an otherwise neutral palette. “I try to engage artists early in the process to look at the space and dimensions,” she says. “[Artists] are an integral part in this process — their job is as important as mine, as important as everybody in the front- and back-of-house.”
Archos, who happens to live blocks away in the refurbished Tribune Tower, says that neighborhood locals are particularly excited about the pending debut. He’s mindful of the responsibility that comes with feeding his neighbors but says he mostly feels pride. “In the last week, we’ve had 20 residents come in asking about when they’re opening,” he says. “I wouldn’t put my daughter’s name on it if it wasn’t fantastic.”
Explore the restaurant and its menu in the photographs below.
The Evie, 535 N. Michigan Avenue, scheduled to open in mid-July.