Oak Park restaurateur Anan Abu-Taleb, who also happens to be mayor, is a little over a week away from opening a new restaurant in the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen.
Abu-Taleb's new venture, Monnie's, 1163 W. 18th St., expected to open around April 20, will feature American cuisine that draws on a variety of influences, including dishes inspired by Spanish, French and Italian cuisine, among others.
Abu-Taleb, who was elected to Oak Park's top office in 2013, also is co-owner of Maya Del Sol, a Latin American restaurant at 144 S. Oak Park Ave., which he opened with his wife and business partner, Margi Abu-Taleb, in 2007.
The Abu-Talebs are bringing on their son, John Abu-Taleb, to serve as general manager at Monnie's.
"We are working really hard to create a space that appeals to the neighborhood and a place that is a gathering place for friends and family," Anan Abu-Taleb told Wednesday Journal.
Monnie's executive chef, Michael Shrader — formerly of N9NE Group — said "America is a melting pot" and designing Monnie's "American" cuisine allows him to take the menu in a variety of directions.
"We're going to have a menu that's what I call chef-driven food — very seasonal, ingredient driven, high quality … but we want to do it at a very good price point," Shrader said. "We don't want people to think that they have to spend an arm and a leg to get a great meal."
The menu will range from a simple bacon cheeseburger to more adventurous plates like the asparagus and crab salad. "We wanted to have one foot in the classics and one foot in the modern world," Shrader said.
The dishes also will range in price from a small pasta dish for about $13 to a $45 steak dinner. "We believe in giving the customer a choice," Abu-Taleb said.
"This is the kind of place people don't have to think about walking into," he noted. "Whether they want to come in for a beer or a great steak or just a salad, we're going to have that range of menu."
Monnie's will seat about 170 inside and, just like Maya, will feature a patio with seating for 180 more.
The venture is named after Margi Abu-Taleb's late aunt, Monnie Burke, whom Anan Abu-Taleb said "was everybody's favorite aunt, including me when I was accepted in that family."
He described her as an inclusive social progressive.
"She was thoughtful, she was well-traveled, she was loving," he said. "I think it would be very fortunate if we can get some of that energy and that soul into this place we're naming after her."
It will be his fourth restaurant; in addition to Maya, he co-owns two Pizza Capri restaurants with his brother — one in Lincoln Park, which opened in 1989, and the other in Hyde Park, opened in 1994.
"What I feel about places like Maya — and that's what we're trying to create in Pilsen — is it becomes like a community center where people share their memories and celebrate their anniversaries and their birthdays with their friends, and it becomes part of their lives," he said. "Our patrons allow us to be part of their lives, and that's a great feeling for us."
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