What to Eat at Salt Shed, Chicago’s Newest Concert Venue

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The Salt Shed, the new music venue near Goose Island, in the shell of the former Morton Salt Factory, debuts next week. On Tuesday, August 2, percussionist Makaya McCraven and Sone of Kemet (a British jazz ensemble) will break the seal on the venue run by 16 on Center, the group that runs restaurants like Dusek’s, Pizza Friendly Pizza, and Revival Food Hall.

For commuters on the Kennedy Expressway, the salt factory was a familiar site on the north side of the highway between the Division Street and North Avenue exits. Morton’s logo, the famous umbrella-equipped woman, couldn’t be missed (California punk band Jawbreaker adopted the logo of the band’s own symbol, sadly they aren’t the openers at the Salt Shed). The factory closed in 2015 and sold in 2017. It’s since been converted into a venue with room for 4,000.

Workers erected the salt factory in the 1920s along the North Branch of the Chicago River. Now, the area is poised to see a renaissance of development including the massive — and controversial — Lincoln Yards project. Old standbys have already closed to make room for new construction including Stanley’s, a grocery store known for affordable prices and big selection; and Art’s Drive In, a fast-food spot that opened in the mid-’60s at the corner of North and Elston. On the northwest side of the intersection stands a vacant lot where a diner, Paddock Restaurant stood for years before it was razed years ago.

Management already had experience curating food experiences at its food halls, Revival in the Loop and the new one inside the Old Post Office, From Here On. They’re taking a similar approach at Salt Shed, using those culinary connections. Expect an array of restaurants to pop up at various shows. Here’s the first batch, according to a spokesperson:

  • Pizza Friendly Pizza (16 on Center’s pizza spot next to Empty Bottle)
  • Cafe Tola (fast casual Mexican mini-chain)
  • All Together Now (West Town’s wine cafe with charcuterie and sandwiches)
  • Funeral Potatoes (a pandemic-era pop-up with unique twists on Midwestern fare)
  • Picnic (suburban Evanston restaurant with wraps, salads, and bowls)
  • Lao Peng You (Chinese restaurant specializing in dumplings and Central Asian fare)

Funeral Potatoes’ Eve Studnicka reveals her operation will pop up in August and September at various shows from Andrew Bird on August 12 to Death Cab For Cutie on September 24.

Taking a page from Ravinia in suburban Highland Park, Salt Shed will also offer picnic baskets. From Here On’s Supper Club will sell two packages for preorder (the link for ordering is on the event’s Eventbrite page sold as an add on):

  • Artisan cheese board (asiago, gouda, grapes, olives, fig jam), marinated zucchini sandwich (whipped Feta, olive tapenade, baby spinach, baguette), pasta salad (tomato, mozzarella, basil, zucchini, red onion, basil pesto), and brownies. ($32)
  • Charcuterie board (hard salami, prosciutto, calabrese salami, cornichon, banana pepper, whole grain mustard), prosciutto baguette (fig jam, goat cheese, arugula) fresh fruit cup (pineapple, melon, grapes, honeydew), and cookies. ($34).

Additionally, bartenders from 16 on Center’s West Loop bar, Moneygun, have created a drink menu. This is a temporary arrangement as there are plans for permanent restaurants around the area including a brewery (16 on Center hasn’t revealed details about the brewery). There are also plans to make the area friendly for food trucks.

The new Goose Island has begun to take shape. Check out the full schedule of shows at the venue’s website.

The Salt Shed, 1357 N. Elston Avenue, opening on Tuesday, August 2.

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