A Restaurant Designer Gives His Personal Tour Of Chicago

TRAVEL + LIFESTYLE | BY | March 23, 2017

Robert McAdams

Founding Partner, Land and Sea Dept

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When the James Beard Foundation announced the winner of 2016’s most outstanding restaurant design, the trophy went to Chicago’s Land and Sea Dept for the firm’s work on the Cherry Circle Room, a moody, hark-back-to-the-old-days-style establishment tucked inside the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. The notable award placed a national spotlight on the concept and product-development studio, which is known for its multidisciplinary work such as design, construction, art and even marketing for projects and places like restaurants and bars, art exhibitions and concerts. The Cherry Circle Room was one of the group’s first projects outside Logan Square, where founding partner Robert McAdams lives with his young family. When he’s not collaborating with his partners on the city’s next hotspot, he’s milling around his neighborhood, oftentimes soaking in the atmosphere at establishments where he’s left his own mark. We tapped McAdams for the best of Chicago, and he responded with picks to take us through Logan Square, Wicker Park and Bucktown.

10:30 a.m. Start your day off right by going straight to Parson’s Chicken & Fish for brunch. Parson’s is a family favorite for us regardless of the season; however, during the summer months, my 3-year-old definitely prefers to play Ping-Pong outside on the huge patio while my wife, Susan, and I sip Negroni slushies.

12 p.m. Walk off your loaded hash browns with a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art. The MCA always has an interesting rotation of new exhibits that keep me inspired; the Kerry James Marshall exhibit there in the fall was one of my favorites. Before you leave, browse the art book selections in the gift shop.

2 p.m. Head to Big Star in Wicker Park for some queso fundido and margaritas. The bar always has a great soundtrack, whether it’s from a DJ or spinning records. My millwork shop, Mode, helped on the original build-out at Big Star, and I’ve always felt really comfortable in the space.

4 p.m. From here, it’s a quick walk to Reckless Records on Milwaukee Avenue. This store has one of the best selections of vinyl in the city. I always see if any records came in from my list of requests and check out any new selections from Light in the Attic Records or Mississippi Records.

5 p.m. Grab a pre-dinner drink at Danny’s Tavern, one of the first bars I ever went to in Chicago when I first moved here in 1998. It’s a small, comfortable spot in an old brick house tucked back on a residential street in Bucktown. My favorite drink is the rye Manhattan, while Susan either has a martini or a glass of wine.

6:30 p.m. Take a two-block stroll down Damen Avenue to Le Bouchon. It’s an intimate restaurant that seems like it should be in France or New York, but despite the small space it’s still very private. My wife and I have been going here for years. Even though we enjoy everything on the menu, we always land on the steak frites. And don’t overlook the wine list–Le Bouchon’s is excellent.

8 p.m. Have an after-dinner drink at Longman & Eagle. I like to grab either a spot at the bar or a two-top out back at Longman’s Off Site Bar. I usually end the night with a digestif; lately, my pick has been a mix of Amaro Montenegro and Cynar with a cube. You also can’t go wrong with a classic: The Longman Manhattan or Old Fashioned are both strong choices to finish your day.