Curtis Duffy’s countdown
Former Grace chef nears July 28 opening of Ever, his new restaurant
Ever, one of Chicago’s most anticipated restaurant openings of 2020 — featuring the return of chef Curtis Duffy — will debut later this month. Reservations went live with July 28 showing as opening day at 1340 W. Fulton Market and are sold out through September.
The return of Duffy’s creative cuisine is huge for Chicagoans who love fine dining. They’ve been missing Duffy’s food, including an inventive vegetarian menu, since Grace closed in 2017. Critics described Grace’s closing as a damaging blow to the city’s food scene with some wondering if it was indicative of the bubble bursting on the food industry, or evidence that Chicago was trending away from fancy tasting menu restaurants.
At Ever, the eight- to 10-course meals will cost diners $285 per person, a little less than the $300 target announced last year. In this age of COVID-19, dynamic pricing doesn’t seem to be in effect. That cost puts Ever in the same category as pre-pandemic Alinea, near the top of the priciest restaurants in Chicago. GM Michael Muser has said they wanted to price Ever competitive with the city’s other fine dining restaurants.
“It’s always been my ambition to do a second restaurant and third and fourth restaurant,” Duffy told the Sun-Times on Monday. “To develop a restaurant empire. To have a handful of restaurants that are chef-driven with different styles of cuisine.”
Grace gained worldwide acclaim as one of two Chicago restaurants (along with Alinea) with a full three stars from Michelin inspectors. The restaurant was carefully thought out as place to showcase Duffy’s skills.
The deterioration of the relationship with owner Michael Olszewski forced the restaurant’s closure. Olszewski has since opened Yugen, a Japanese restaurant, in the same space. Non-compete clauses in Duffy and Muser’s contracts prevented them from opening a new restaurant in the Chicago area, but now the limitation is expired, and Ever was born.
Muser told Eater Chicago that he was confident that he and his staff could create a safe experience for diners worried about the novel coronavirus. As a fine dining establishment, Muser says they can easily control the flow of customers and limit their time in a spacious dining room. They’ll be running at a reduced capacity with 14 tables.
More reservations may be offered if Gov. J.B. Pritzker relaxes the current limits on indoor seating, Duffy said.
The safety measures are listed on the restaurant’s website. Back in May, Muser talked about the design for the masks workers would wear. He said they would probably give them to a customer as a keepsake if asked. They’ve taken that to the next level as all diners will receive a personal safety kit. The package includes a mask, hand sanitizer, and latex-free gloves.
“Here’s the thing: we in the restaurant world, we want to open real bad, all of us,” Muser says. “But we don’t want to get sick either.”