Doug Dunlay has opened eateries before — six, in fact, with his partners in 4-Star Restaurant Group. You’d think each time the process would become a little easier but with 4-Star’s latest baby, Crosby’s Kitchen at 3455 N. Southport Ave., it’s actually been the “most painful” to date.
“The city was incredibly slow with the permitting process,” Dunlay says, taking twice as long as in the past. “We had to stop construction for four to five weeks. I don’t know if they just laid people off. It’s not like anything we did wrong. It’s been extremely frustrating.”
Having passed its final building inspection, Crosby’s faces one last hurdle, a task force visit (“health and occupancy and all that jazz”), and assuming all goes well, doors could open this Sunday, or more likely Monday.
One benefit of the delay: staff has received additional training. On a recent afternoon, servers gathered for a tutorial on the restaurant’s wine list, repeating back the pronunciation of each offering. “We want to make sure when we do open we’re firing on all cylinders,” says Dunlay.
For those familiar with 4-Star’s other projects, including Frasca and Smoke Daddy, Crosby’s will feel similar yet unique. “There are a few things we imported from our other restaurants and new things that stand out on their own,” Dunlay says. A wood-fired rotisserie will serve up chicken every day, with pork chops, prime rib and leg of lamb rotating throughout the week. Look for lots of seafood, ribs, sandwiches and burgers on the menu as well.
The decor is a complete 180-degree turn from the previous occupant, Leo’s Coney Island. “We knew that we were going to completely gut it,” he says. “There was really nothing left except a couple of support poles.”
A brick exterior gives way to an interior that makes use of “a ton of reclaimed wood” and a warm color palette of chocolate and earthy blue. Dunlay describes the aesthetic as “almost country house meets updated American.”
Named after 4-Star partner Derek Rettell’s youngest daughter, Crosby, who’s become a mascot of sorts on the Kitchen’s Facebook page, the restaurant also aims to be kid-friendly; little ones eat free daily 4-6 p.m. “You know this neighborhood,” says Dunlay. “There’s more strollers than there are people.”
Dunlay’s had plenty of opportunity to study the area’s demographics over the years, biding his time until the stars aligned for a venture on Southport. “We were looking at this area for our first restaurant 10 years ago,” he says. “Many times we were negotiating and bidding on a space; this is one we finally got.”
After a 10-year wait, what’s a few more days.