José Andrés’ two great downtown Chicago restaurants to open on Wednesday

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José Andrés isn’t entirely comfortable posing for selfies with guests or chatting at his new Chicago restaurant complex. The Spanish chef was in town last week to prepare the openings of his last two restaurants, Bazaar Meat and Bar Mar.

The restaurants are a collaboration between Andrés’s ThinkFoodGroup and Chicago’s Gibsons Restaurant Group, are decadent anchors at the base of the 56-story Bank of America Tower which sits on the Chicago River and was completed in late 2020. two spaces will open on Wednesday, a week later than expected, after a delay in the delivery of furniture.

Andrés says his partners wanted to stagger the openings, but the pandemic forced their hand, and so the first floor Bar Mar – which includes a raw bar and small plates of fresh seafood – and Bazaar Meat on the second floor – which includes valuable Australian wagyu beef from Gibsons and other cuts from vendors like The Pryor Farms – opened immediately.

Both spaces are magnificent. The Bar Mar is the more striking of the two: the 200-seat dining room sits under a 40-foot ceiling, and a giant octopus sculpture hovers in the air above the bar where bartenders mix smoky cocktails and cocktails. ‘other concoctions. Customers can order caviar, ceviche and more. Large bay windows frame the space.

Upstairs, Bazaar Meat is more intimate, and diners can watch the action in the open kitchen. The Lombardos, the family that owns Gibsons, said they were impressed during a visit to the Bazaar store in Las Vegas. They adapt the concept to Chicago, where diners will find whole suckling pig, thoroughbred wagyu and deli meats. A tailor-made Ipsor Spanish oven cooks most of the meat.

Andres, a former Nobel Peace Prize finalist, is delighted to finally open his doors in Chicago. His tapas restaurant, Jaleo, opened in July in River North and a basement bar followed. Earlier this year, an all-day cafe – Cafe by the River – opened with waterfront seating. A 40-seater patio should open in front of Bar Mar next year.

But for Andrés, a celebrity chef who appears on late-night TV shows, the party is a distraction. While happy to chat with his fans, he worries about his humanitarian efforts. World Central Kitchen focuses on helping victims of natural disasters. A few days later, tornadoes would hit Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas, and Andrés immediately donated money, resources and food to the recovery efforts.. Andrés has said the government needs to play an important role in helping the poor, and his criticism of the Trump administration has been the subject of reliable information about the electoral cycle. Andrés says most of these stories were right, but he sometimes challenged the misleading headlines.

For now, however, Andrés is content to play along and answer questions. He says he has no plans to open any other restaurants in Chicago, but he is intrigued by certain customs. Although he’s had a Chicago hot dog, he’s yet to try the city’s famous bitter spirit, Jeppson’s Malört: “You learn something new every day,” he says.

Mars Bar and Bazaar meat; 120 N., Wacker Drive; Bazaar Meat open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday; Bar Mar open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Sunday. Reservations through Seven Rooms.

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