The Hotel Zachary is the Hottest New Dining Destination in Town
We’re living in the golden age of hotel dining in Chicago. Long gone are the days when hotels were stereotypical wastelands of mediocre food pandering to downtown tourists. Nowadays, rather, hotels have become hotbeds of culinary creativity, and havens for locals and out-of-towners alike. Just look at the recent success of perpetually packed crowd-pleasers like the Chicago Athletic Association hotel, the Ace Hotel, The Robey and the Kimpton Gray Hotel, all of which account for hot spots that transcend the bygone hotel stigma, like Cherry Circle Room, Cindy’s, and Boleo. The hottest and biggest hotel dining destination to date just made its grand entry in Wrigleyville of all places, signaling major changes for the north side neighborhood and marking a new era for dining and drinking by historic Wrigley Field. The Hotel Zachary is officially open for business, featuring a dizzying roster of restaurants and bars from some of the city’s finest hospitality pros.
Easily the buzziest dining addition to Hotel Zachary, the neighborhood’s first boutique property, is Big Star. A new location for the Wicker Park original, this is an even bigger Big Star, with two floors and seating for hundreds for indoors and outside. Considering how endlessly crowded and popular the Wicker Park outpost is, renowned as one of the city’s coolest patios and best destinations for tacos and margaritas, this is sure to be a home run for the baseball-loving neighborhood. For the new location, One Off Hospitality went big — the space spans 9,000-sq.-ft., including an 80-seat patio overlooking the ballpark. Inside, decor harkens to the original location, featuring honky-tonk vibes inspired by California taqueria traditions. Upstairs, you’ll find a 20-seat bar and room for private and semi-private events. Both floors boast retractable siding to help meld the outdoors with the interior. Food-wise, it’s safe to expect the same menu of staples that has made the brand such a smash hit with locals and travelers alike. Housemade tortillas lay the framework for tacos like al pastor, Baja fish and panzo. One new menu addition is Big Star’s “hot chips,” a mashup of nachos and chilaquiles, wherein handmade tortilla chips are tossed in arbol salsa and layered with sour cream, radishes, onions and cilantro. Also new to the Wrigleyville spinoff: TVs. Considering its proximity to Wrigley Field, it’s no surprise that sports TV will play a role here, displayed on eight retractable screens during game days.
Big Star isn’t the only Wicker Park restaurant expanding to Wrigleyville. One of the city’s most beloved barbecue destinations, Smoke Daddy beefs up the Hotel Zachary with its second location from 4 Star Restaurant Group. Featuring branding and design by Grip, the restaurant features the same menu of people-pleasing smoked meats and housemade sauces that have endeared it to regulars for 24 years. Open for lunch, brunch and dinner, the restaurant is sure to become a quick hit on the north side, especially considering its whopping size: at 8,000-sq.-ft., it’s got capacity for 300 over two stories and a 1,500-sq.-ft. terrace.
Another major Chicago restaurant group is getting in on the action too, as The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group brings its venerable West Town Bakery brand to the property. Adapting to its bar-centric neighborhood, the casual cafe and eatery has branded itself as West Town Bakery & Tap for the Wrigleyville venture, offering a mix of imaginative baked goods, cold-brew coffee and a fully loaded bar with beer and cocktails on tap. The most distinctive element here is the cocktails inspired by bakery favorites, like Bloody Marys garnished with chocolate-dipped chicharrones and boozy shakes made with red velvet cake and baking spices. There’s also donuts, cake balls, sundaes and soft-serve ice cream.
It isn’t only expansions, though. The most exciting original concept coming to the hotel is a cocktail-focused spot from Folkart Restaurant Management, the group behind hits like Billy Sunday and A10. Mordecai is a bi-level bar and restaurant that’s sure to put its own distinct stamp on Wrigleyville’s evolving dining and drinking landscape. Alex Bachman oversees a bar that features one of the country’s largest selections of rare and vintage spirits, drawing inspiration from across the globe for drinks utilizing everything from Scotch and Amaro to all-American whiskey. Most interesting is Mordecai’s food program, which is overseen by Michelin-starred chef Jared Wentworth (nee Longman & Eagle, Regards to Edith). His menu will be a refined American-inspired one, designed to compliment the Americana vibes of the neighborhood. He’s focusing on locally sourced, sustainable ingredients for a lineup of modern tavern-inspired dishes, snacks and entrees.
Additionally, the hotel is also home to the Alma Room, a private event space and lounge that opens to the public for breakfast, and Dutch & Doc’s, a new venture from Boka Restaurant Group that’ll be housed adjacent to the property with its own address and a menu of steaks, seafood and pasta by the venerable Chris Pandel.