Take a tour of Lettuce Entertain You’s new Mediterranean escape

If you’re looking for an escape from the cooler temperatures of Chicago’s fall, you won’t have to look far. You can take a trip to the Mediterranean just by visiting Aba {302 North Green Street, 3rd Floor, Chicago; 773.645.1400}, Lettuce Entertain You’s latest addition to the Chicago restaurant scene. The space was designed by the Lettuce Entertain You’s in-house design team, led by Senior Project Designer, Avril Zayas.

Zayas and her team created an oasis meant to emulate vibes of a Mediterranean summer. The dining room has open ceilings and a skylight, in addition to Moroccan lanterns, and lots of greenery in the space to represent different styles and regions of the area, including a mix of Mediterranean olive trees, fig trees, and more. The restaurant has over 200 seats and a patio that seats 220+ alone! It’s the perfect place for a fun date night or a group dinner with friends. Zayas and Marc Jacobs, Divisional President and Executive Partner at Lettuce Entertain You, are taking us behind the scenes of this new hot spot…

DiningOut: What inspired the design concept for Aba?

Jacobs: It all started with the food. From there, we wanted to work with the idea of Mediterranean summer by bringing the outside in with the rooftop patio, open windows, skylight, and lush greenery.

How does the Lettuce design team make each location unique?

Both: The design of the space is created in tandem with the neighborhood and guests, and aligns with the core of the menu and concept.

How do you make the concept a reality?

Both: We’re very organic in our approach. We live and breathe in the space, and are constantly layering in elements as we build to get the ultimate look and feel—it often changes throughout the process.

How does the design add to the overall dining experience?

Zayas: It sets the tone. The design and energy are the first things the guests see and feel right as they get off the elevator before they drink and eat. It’s an oasis from the city. We want them to feel like they’re on vacation. We use a local service to care for the foliage in the restaurant, and we also have some faux foliage sprinkled throughout the space.

Fall is coming. How is Aba the perfect escape?

Both: Aba makes you feel like you’re in the Mediterranean. We think that the indoor/outdoor feel of the restaurant will continue the summer.

We also love the bar area. Talk about that design.

Zayas: It was important that the bars had a great energy and drink display. We used traditional millwork with unique and rare stones, and also found vintage lighting to help accent the feel.

What are your signature cocktails for the season?

Liz Pearce, the restaurant’s Lead Mixologist, says, “The newest additions to the menu are the Hybrid Sour, Aged by Air, Sloe Your Role, and the Mediterranean Mule. I’m especially excited by the Aged by Air; it’s a stirred boozy cocktail, featuring a Tennessee Whiskey that was created to honor a slave that never got the credit he deserved.

It’s got a great story, which I always love, and then we add Lustau East India Sherry (where the name comes from), Cardamaro, and of course, we have to throw something really Mediterranean in, so we add a little Arak. It ends up tasting kind of like the love child of a Manhattan and a Sazerac; rich, spirited, and with that awesome anise note at the end.”

And menu items?

CJ Jacobson, Chef/Partner, says, “Our new fall menu items will continue to showcase our clean and bright flavor profiles, but with the addition of warmer spice blends, heartier dishes, and fall ingredients. A few examples include Truffled Wild Mushroom Hummus with Garlic Shoots, and Shrimp Scampi with Black Garlic and Lime Pickle Butter and Parmesan Breadcrumbs.”