One of the signatures of Bonhomme Hospitality, the group of restaurants behind Porto and Beatnik, among others, is its meticulously designed interiors, filled with antiques, imported tiles and intricate light fixtures, all intended to give diners feeling like you’ve traveled to another time and place without the hassle of a plane or a TARDIS.
This year, Bonhomme is expanding to two new restaurants in the West Loop meant to evoke Paris and Marco Polo’s Silk Road, a club inspired by Led Zeppelin’s song “Kashmir” (itself inspired by a trip the band took made in Morocco in the 70s), plus – which makes sense given the group’s interest in travel and culture – a Galician-inspired hotel in northwestern Spain called Casa Beatnik. Both restaurants are expected to open in late summer, while the club should be ready by the holidays. The hotel opened on June 1.
“It’s been a busy year,” says Bonhomme founder Daniel Alonso. “But these are all self-inflicted wounds.”
The two restaurants, Bambola and Coquette, will share an address, 1400 W. Randolph Street, but each will have its own entrance and kitchen. Bambola, the larger of the two, has an Italian name — it means ‘doll’ — but other than that, says Alonso, nothing will be very Italian.
“It’s inspired by the meeting of East and West,” he says, “Italy in Xanadu, the romance of Marco Polo’s Silk Road.” The menu will feature dishes and cooking techniques that have traveled along this ancient trade route, primarily rice and noodles, with an emphasis on Turkish and Persian cuisine, although it may travel as far as Thailand and Vietnam. There will be an open kitchen with wood and charcoal ovens, as well as a mangal grill for cooking kebabs.
The 7,000-square-foot space will seat 175 people and will be filled with a mix of contemporary Italian furnishings and Asian antiques (Alonso has been sourcing for 18 months) with elaborate tile flooring imported from Popham Design in Marrakech, Australia. Morocco. Alonso envisions a space filled with mustards, reds, browns and blues with a contrast between the rich fabrics of the furniture, the wooden tables and the pattern of the tiles.
Coquette will be, like her name, French. Alonso describes it as “Parisian chic meets provincial splendor”. Erwin Mallett, Porto’s Michelin-starred chef de cuisine, will lead the kitchen and serve a range of classic French dishes cooked over wood and charcoal. In terms of style, it will be the opposite of Bambola: pink and white and small, with 46 seats.
Finally, there’s Kashmir, which will open across the street in late 2022. Alonso describes it as a continuation of Bordel, Bonhomme’s Ukrainian village cocktail bar and cabaret, but bigger and more ambitious. There will be an eclectic roster of performers: jazz musicians, flamenco dancers, burlesque performers, cabaret singers and magicians. Alonso imagines the Brothel and Kashmir teams will work closely together to promote new and established talent.
Alonso’s goal for Bonhomme, he says, has always been to give customers the experience of traveling without actually traveling. But while a restaurant meal only lasts a maximum of three hours, the hotel will be an overall experience. Casa Beatnik will have restaurants, of course, as well as a pool, spa, yoga and tai chi studio, and seven acres of land, including a working vineyard run by Alonso’s brother. Guests will have the choice of staying indoors in suites, or in luxury yurts or glamping tents. The hotel is 20 minutes from Santiago de Compostela, a city that has been a destination for Catholic pilgrims since the Middle Ages (it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), but the beautiful one thing about Galicia, says Alonso, is that it hasn’t been overrun by tourists — yet.
“Even in high season, you feel like you’re surrounded by locals and other Spaniards,” he says. He should know: his family is from Galicia, and he grew up going back and forth between there and Chicago. The region is famous for its seafood; this is where Alonso sources much of the fish served in Porto. “The countryside is magnificent,” he continues. “The beaches are beautiful. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world falls in love with it.
Alonso, meanwhile, is enthusiastic about any openings, although he realizes that two restaurants, a bar and a hotel are an insane amount of work. He anticipates a much calmer year 2023. “Then, he jokes, I will be institutionalized by my team.
Bambola et Coquette, 1400 W. Randolph Street, opening late summer 2022. Cashmere, 1436 W. Randolph Street, opening late 2022.