Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chicago Magazine Greets Orly's Successor with Mild Sarcasm

posted by chicago pop

We thought a steak had been driven through the heart of the undead restaurant known as Orly's when we learned last fall that, like my single and social-security-eligible aunt, it had recently gone online to look for love. But, according to a blurb in the January number of Chicago Magazine, Orly's is back. Make that Orly's version 8.0. The latest resuscitation takes the name "Big Easy" and shares with all 8 previous incarnations the menu magic of owner David Shopiro.

Somewhat of a surprise, since last we heard, Shopiro was unloading the restaurant and keeping the kitchen catering only. Not so: Orly's has been reinvented yet again, but with a partner, as per Chicago Magazine's "The Pig Out":

The last days of 2009 saw the quiet opening of The Big Easy (1660 E. 55th St.; 773-643-5500), in the space that formerly housed Hyde Park Barbeque & Bakery, and before that, Orly’s, Jalapeño’s, and the original Orly’s. All four (five if you count Orly’s twice) of these restaurants have been owned by David Shopiro, who says he felt the itch to reinvent again last spring. He brought on the South Side native and Lettuce Entertain You vet Jennifer Gavin as an equity partner and together they developed a New Orleans–themed menu, but he kept one aspect that’s been constant since 1981: the bakery. “We have Creole/Cajun, southern barbecue, and a bakery under one roof,” Shopiro says. “I don’t think anyone else has this.” Everyone needs a niche.

Back in October, it looked like the restaurant might actually come into new hands and get the complete makeover it sorely needs. According to Chicago Weekly:

After a series of failed reinventions and menu changes over the last decade, Shopiro realized he was ready to move on and made the following offer on Craigslist this August: “Owner of 30 years in newly renovated central location wants to phase out and just focus on catering…the restaurant operation will be your ship to steer.” Offering control over the kitchen and all front-of-the-house operations, Shopiro’s only requirement was $75,000 in operating capital. Shopiro says he received about a dozen serious offers among over one hundred responses. He says he’s currently negotiating with two “classically trained New Orleans chefs” who want to renovate the dining room, overhaul the menu, and convert the bakery display cases into a bar offering several craft beers on tap as part of a deal he hopes to close by November.

So the bakery is still there, instead of a bar serving craft beers (too good to have been true); as in all previous 7 versions, Shopiro had a hand in the new menu of version 8.0; and it's not clear if Jennifer Gavin = two classically-trained New Orleans chefs.

In other words, plus ça change ... but hey, we haven't even eaten there yet. Go try it out yourself and let us know what you think.


Elizabeth Fama said...

Time for you to do a restaurant review of The Big Easy, Chicago Pop!

And nice pun, "steak in the heart." Er...or was that a typo?

HydePark said...

Had dinner there on Tuesday. Atmosphere was pretty much the same as Hyde Park BBQ/Orly's/Etc with some minor redecorating & we were greeted and served by the same goofy guy as always (possibly David Shopiro himself?). But the food was actually really, really good. I had the shrimp & grits and they were delicious, as were the fresh beignets (which they gave us on the house). Would've been nice if the new chef had just taken over the place completely, but, either way, I think it's definitely a major upgrade

Anonymous said...

The goofy guy isn't David Shopiro. It's the hispanic host we lovingly refer to as the rubber chicken guy. C-Pop isn't a fan of him, to say the least (I think you compared him to a pervert in a clown suit?) I say, I don't care if they're odd, I just want some consistently decent food and service. I've had good food there, I've had bad food there. I've had decent service, and I've also gone in there, stood around for 20 minutes with noone in sight, and walked out. I gave up on them years ago.

I met Shopiro a couple times when I lived upstairs. He's a middle-aged white guy who seems really nice but also seems to get really revved up about something, then changes his mind totally after a few weeks and gets revved up about something totally different.

I KNEW from the get-go that this would happen. It's just another facelift in a long series with the same stuff. The food really isn't bad usually and is even really good on some occasions, but they have zero marketing skills and totally slow, inefficient service.

I give the new chef 6 months to a year before she pulls out. And in 3-4 years they will come out and say "we need to get back to what we do best, hickory smoked ribs and baked goods", they'll bring back the Orly's name and the rubber chicken guy will still be there.

Richard Gill said...

A year or two ago, on this blog, Orly's was on my list of places I wouldn't go back to, even for free. Thus far, nothing has happened to change my mind, including the restaurant's most recent incarnation.

HydePark said...

I hear you, but what's tough about the situation is that it doesn't look like Shopiro's willing to walk, EVER. So what do we do? We're stuck between a rock and hard place-- Either we encourage the best-so-far incarnation, or we avoid it like the plague, the Big Easy fails, and we end up back where we started in a couple of months.... All I know is the Big Easy is better than past versions in a lot of ways-- It has a real chef, a coherent menu, a true theme, and it fills a niche in the neighborhood (esp now that Dixie is gone) & so I'm gonna give em by business.

Richard Gill said...

" doesn't look like Shopiro's willing to walk, EVER."

Does he either own the physical space occupied by the restaurant, or have a lease into perpetuity? If not, the property owner(s) can determine whether or not the walk takes place.

Ms.HydePark said...

Not sure if anyone would still see a post to this thread, but had to share-- I walked into Big Easy yesterday to be greeted by Crazy-Rubber-Chicken Guy w/ a new goatee. He greets us same as always. The new facial hair seemed a little odd, but we didn't give it much thought. We walk 10 more feet into the restaurant and then are greeted (in much the same way) by Mr. Rubber-Chicken Guy w/out the beard!! Folks, there are 2 Mr. Rubber Chicken Guys, and they are completely identical (save for the beard)!!! I didn't have it in me to ask, but I'm wondering if they've always both worked there on different night...Maybe that explains why I have heard all of his/their jokes at least twice? Maybe not.

Becca said...

I've been going here for years and have made the treck from the northside, through it's incarnations. Love the food, everything from their fresh salads to their fried goodies, great barbeque sauce, corn muffins, pasta with veggies, crispy fried chicken, gooey cheesey chicken egg rolls (sounds strange but quite addictive), fried ice cream, hot chocolate, freshly made in house bagels, incredible chocolate chip cookies.... the list goes on and on. If you are on a diet do not come here, it is dangerous, luckily to date not needed to be on one. Did I mention this restaurant has always been extremely reasonable as well. Well and gourmet fed, at $10-$12 with free soft flaky buttery melt in your mouth corn muffins! They're brunch is a steal too with a buffet style dessert, pastry table even chocolate covered strawberries that comes free with any brunch entree along with this frozen strawberry orange effervescent refreshing drink concoction. Is the staff eccentric, of course, they've survived in Hyde Park through thick and thin. Are they some of the nicest staff ever, yes! Going there is like going home, to a spunky fun and ever so sweet family that will jump through hoops to make you happy at very little cost. They've even run to the store once to pick up a quart of Haagen Dazs asking me which flavor I prefer first, to make the fried ice cream, when they had run out. When I was going on vacation, Adrian, the man you rudely referred to that has an identical twin brother gave me Hot Chocolate packets to mix with warm milk (from Starbucks) at the airport to make their amazing Hot Chocolate (sorry Starbucks you fail in the comparison). Sometimes you may have to wait at the door for a minute or say hello but it is a family run restaurant type and I wish there were a lot more of these in Chicago instead of Lettuce Take Over The World, all looks no substance nor good raw materials type. This restaurant is and has been a labor of love for these people of hard work, working morning, noon and night with very little pay off. I wish they were on the northside too. Let's show them some respect! Thank you Orly's, The Big Easy or whomever you become, for fabulous food at bargain basement pricing, and thank you for catering some fabulous parties as well! Thank you for treating your customers like family all these years, it's nice to come home too.;)