Going out with a bang after a blowout New Year’s Eve bash, River North’s Rockit Bar & Grill closed its doors for four months while, inside, restaurateurs Billy Dec, Arturo Gomez and Brad Young of Rockit Ranch Productions were revamping the 10-year-old space. Executive Chef and Partner Amanda Downing — who began as a sous chef when the spot first opened in 2004 — worked closely with the restaurant group’s Food and Beverage Director Kevin Hickey to scale down the enormous menu. She modernized and lightened it — for example, the Baja chopped salad ($16) is a fresher, less hearty take on the old Ranch-laden Southwest salad.
Here’s what else to expect at the recently reopened Rockit:
Interior update: Chicago designer Kara Mann stripped away the excess to reveal a raw, rock ‘n’ roll-inspired space. The layout is more streamlined, the table settings more upscale and the urban vibe that always permeated the space is, somehow, chicer — think gorgeous graffiti and a standout Carrara marble bar. Upstairs, the bar scene lights up at night, when an LED system in the ceiling interacts with the custom DJ booth.
Must try: While Downing was hesitant to play favorites, she couldn’t help calling out a few dishes — namely, the lamb nachos ($13). “I was really happy with this dish,” she says. “We’re a modern grill and people want nachos — that just seems fitting — but we [thought], ‘Let’s do something different.’ ” The result is a Greek take on the bar-food favorite: Braised lamb, feta fondue, Greek olives and tomatoes are slathered over crispy lavash chips.
Mainstay: Rockit lovers will be pleased to see some old favorites still on the menu. “The Rockit burger [with brie and medjool date aioli, $19] has been a signature from day one,” Downing says. “So we couldn’t get away from that.” Also salvaged are the popular Rockit pockits ($5 each) and, of course, the truffle fries ($10).
Final sip: Beverage Director Joshua Williams’ cocktails always delight, but beer lovers weren’t overlooked in the update. A new draft system pours 22 craft options, both local and global. Try the Dragon’s Milk Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, a malty draft brewed in nearby Holland, Michigan.
22 W. Hubbard, (312) 645-6000; Rockitbarandgrill.com