After closing for five days to do a $20,000 facelift, Southport Grocery and Café is back open and sporting a cleaned-up look while continuing to dish up Lake View favorites.
Owner Lisa Santos said attempts to complete overnight painting jobs and restoration were becoming increasingly difficult at her nearly 10-year-old restaurant, located at 3552 N. Southport Ave. And while the store closed for the renovation, Santos says diners may notice not much has changed.
“I think people watch too many of these reality TV shows where you go to a hotel overnight, come back and everything is completely different,” Santos laughed. “We tried to clean up at night, but it was too much. … It’s just scary to close, even for five days.”
Santos said crews fixed the beat-up, original flooring, installed new cabinets behind the main desk and replaced the cashier counter with a sleeker wooden one to match the restaurant’s look and feel. That’s combined with repainting the walls, scrubbing down absolutely everything—including the bottoms of chairs—and installing a new dishwasher.
"Customers really like things that take care and thought to put together. The audience is there."
And the fresh look comes at the perfect time. Although the building was recently sold to new investors in a $13 million deal, Santos said Southport Grocery is here to stay.
“We actually just signed a new lease to stay in the building,” Santos said. “The lease is for 10 years, so we invested in the facelift knowing that we’ll be here for at least another decade.”
Southport Grocery has also been snagging a lot of attention by foodies in the press. From a shout-out for the restaurant’s “Secret Supper” in this month’s issue of Details Magazine to the New York Times featuring the restaurant-market hybrid in August 2012, Southport Grocery’s unique style is turning heads.
“When I first started in 2003, I’d been doing a lot of traveling to New York, which has a tradition of really great specialty food stores, and Chicago didn’t have those,” Santos told the Times. “Now, what’s available has changed, and there are a lot more businesses in the city making things locally. Customers really like things that take care and thought to put together. The audience is there.”
Outside its “Secret Supper,” a randomly chosen night when chefs prepare a new dinner menu for 46 lucky diners, Southport Grocery is open exclusively for breakfast, brunch and lunch.