Itoko, GG’s Chicken Shop and Little Goat by Boka Restaurant Group Opening this Winter

The signs are up and construction has been going for months now on Boka’s new restaurants coming to Southport. Let’s take a look at what will be coming to the former Southport Lanes space.

GG’s Chicken Shop

GG’s Chicken Shop, a fast-casual pop-up that debuted during the pandemic as a ghost kitchen operating out of the Boka’s Michelin-starred namesake in Lincoln Park, will serve fried chicken sandwiches, salads, and more. Executive Chef Lee Wolen is a kind of a chicken whisperer known for his roast chicken at Boka. He’ll serve a version of the item at GG’s along with a full slate of sides. Wolen says he imagines adding a rotisserie and cooking veggies like cauliflower on the spit.

“We really want to be family forward where you can get a fried chicken sandwich for the kids, and a rotisserie chicken with four sides,” Wolen says of GG’s, which paused ghost kitchen operations about a month ago with Boka increasing focus on indoor dining.

Itoko

From Eater, “Gene Kato built a loyal following at Sumi, his River North restaurant where he roasted veggies and meats over a robota grill. When Sumi closed in 2017, Alinea Group co-founder Nick Kokonas snapped the grill up for use at Michelin-starred Next Restaurant. Kato would eventually follow his grill to the area, finding a nearby home at Momotaro, where he serves as executive chef of Boka Group’s sprawling Japanese restaurant.

Sumi, at 2,000 square feet on each floor, was considerably smaller than the 11,000-square-foot Momotaro. The cavernous West Loop restaurant includes a basement izakaya that operates separate from the mothership. For a sushi restaurant, intimacy gives the chef a chance to offer different items. Kato could serve hand rolls which are meant to be eaten immediately without a server carrying them to a table. The temaki is wrapped in seaweed which degrades quickly and is meant to be enjoyed fresh. At Momotaro, hand rolls are only offered to diners seated directly at the sushi bar.

Kato will now have that opportunity to serve hand rolls to all — and be reunited with his grill — in Lakeview. Boka has finally revealed the third and final prong of its Southport Corridor project. Itoko, a Japanese project led by Kato, should open this winter and join Lee Wolen’s GG’s Chicken Shop, while arriving before Stephanie Izard’s Little Goat Diner debuts early next year at the former Southport Lanes, 3325 N. Southport Avenue.

Little Goat

from Eater Chicago, “Little Goat, the bustling all-day diner from Top Chef champion and celebrated Chicago chef Stephanie Izard, will leave its decade-old home in the West Loop in early 2023 for new digs in Lakeview. The diner will join two other Boka Group restaurants — GGs Chicken Shop from Boka executive chef Lee Wolen and an as-yet-unannounced venue — inside the 122-year-old building that previously housed the historic Southport Lanes at 3325 N. Southport Avenue.

Little Goat will seat just 50 — a third of the West Loop location’s capacity — and offer three meals a day. It will likely share some back-of-house operations, such as dishwashing and storage, with the other Boka restaurants in the building.

But each will have a separate entrance and distinctive design to set it apart from its neighbors. “Going back more than a decade, Stephanie’s vision was to have a little diner,” says Katz. “What’s happening on Southport is that it’s really going to be a Little Goat Diner.”

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