Opening Today: The Dawson

By Sarah Freeman  |  October 25, 2013
Credit: Nick Murway

When Billy Lawless (The Gage, Henri) and Branko Palikuca (Topaz, Amber) took over the two-story restaurant space on the intersection of Milwaukee, Halsted and Grand, they had their hands full. Full of 200 seats, two bars, a 150-seat patio and a menu of updated American classics ready to take the culinary world by storm.

To make this ambitious restaurant a reality, the team brought in Rene De Leon (Next, Alinea) to fuse American favorites with ethnic twists. Think pigs in a blanket made with Mandarin-style pork sausage, served in a dumpling steamer. But more of that later.

With the help of general manager Clint Rogers, The Dawson aims to pay tribute to the nearby Dawson Brothers Plant, which manufactured fireplace mantels and grates in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The space reflects the Dawson brothers’ commitment to Chicago industry and their passion for reclaimed Native American artifacts.

The restaurant opens today and hopes to revitalize the area with a one-two punch of undeniably delicious food in a stunning setting.

730 W. Grand Ave.; 312-243-8955

  • Credit: Nick Murway


    The Dawson’s interior design fuses industrial touches: exposed wood beams, an open kitchen behind an antique zinc bar, dungaree denim for wall coverings, military canvas for upholstery and encaustic tile reminiscent of early American quilts. Diners enter through a glass-encased atrium that spans two floors. A trip through the heavy wood doors leads to the main dining room with light wood accents and a U-shaped bar. A trip up the stairs reveals an entirely different experience defined by deep grey walls and soft leather accents.

  • Credit: Nick Murway


    The menu reads like My Last Supper, with hearty dishes that satisfy the deepest cravings; chicken-fried New York strip steak is served with country gravy, collard greens, mashed potatoes and honey biscuits. Less hearty options include wood-grilled squid with chickpeas, Spanish chorizo and saffron fumet or smoked beef tongue sliders. Showcasing the restaurant commitment to American artisans, the charcuterie board offers meats and cheeses from “America’s top craftpersons,” served with green tomato jam and toasted almonds.

  • Credit: Nick Murway


    Because a restaurant of this size cannot survive on sodas alone, Annemarie Sagoi (Big Star, Charleston) oversees the cocktail program. Her menu features a few classics, like the house Manhattan made with a Weller 107 selected especially for the restaurant. Most cocktails are much more complex; the tiki-eqsue Saca Palabras relies on unique ingredients such as mescal, Cardamaro, dry vermouth, Creole shrubb and Bittercube blackstrap bitters. In addition to cocktails, the two bars also serve wine by the glass and a limited selection of specialty beer.