It’s been a big year for the Museum of Contemporary Art, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this month, and put the finishing touches on a massive $16 million renovation. The most noticeable addition is a street-level restaurant and bar, Marisol, named for French/Venezuelan sculptor — and Andy Warhol contemporary — Marisol Escobar, who gave the MCA its first permanent collection piece.
Fittingly, art plays a central role in the restaurant, which serves lunch, dinner and, soon, weekend brunch. Brit-born artist Chris Ofili designed the space, which centers on a custom mural whose colors are reflected in bright seats and cushions; the organic lines extend onto adjacent walls and across glass windows.
Here’s what to expect at Marisol:
Chef’s table: Not to be outdone by his surroundings, Chef Jason Hammel (Lula Cafe) makes food an art form of its own. Sourcing ingredients from Midwest farmers makes the menu ever-changing, but its current iteration boasts a delicious crispy eggplant with sweet and sour pork ($12) that looks as good as it tastes.
Starting point: Don’t overlook Hammel’s sunflower hummus ($13) — served alongside homemade flaxseed crackers, it’s got artichokes, oregano and just the right amount of heat. “[The dish] is a real labor of love, because it takes a lot of effort to make it so smooth and creamy,” says Hammel, who also co-founded Pilot Light, a nonprofit that brings food education to Chicago schoolchildren. “It’s a new take on something really familiar to people, which is the case with a lot of the menu.”
Split decision: The entrees are sized to share. Try the roasted half chicken ($26) or the steamed swordfish with uni hollandaise ($34), and supplement with a pasta dish. The mafalde ($18) is a unique take, with sweet pepper, kale, lobster mushrooms and ricotta cheese.
Final sip: Each of the cocktails ($14) pays homage to Marisol in some way, like the 6 Women, named for the artist’s permanent collection sculpture, now on display. Our personal favorite is the Sidney J., a surprisingly smooth blend of sherry, tequila and orange.
205 E. Pearson, (312) 799-3599; Marisolchicago.com
Pictured at top: Sunflower tart with buckwheat and blackberries, $10 | Food photos by Jeff Marini