Building a Dynasty

Carly Boers |
Food And Dining

Odds are good you’ve found yourself staring blankly at an encyclopedic beer menu, puzzling over words like “saison” and “barleywine” and too embarrassed to admit you’re baffled. Even with best intentions to test out a new brew, it’s likely you just threw your hands up in frustration and ordered a boring standby.

“We get it. Not everyone who walks through our doors will be a beer aficionado, and that can be intimidating—especially with some of these largely unknown small-batch brews,” says David Rekhson, co-owner of the River North gastropub Public House. At this two-year-old hotspot, beer is the focus (check out the beer bottle chandelier if you require further evidence), but it’s perfectly acceptable to not be a brew aficionado. Thanks to a menu that’s peppered with playful illustrations, it’s relatively simple to sift through the 125 beer choices to find something you'll enjoy. Fancy the hoppy stuff? Peruse the beer list for selections featuring the rabbit symbol.

The thoughtful approachability behind the beer menu is just one example of how DineAmic Hospitality Group Founders David Rekhson and Lucas Stoioff execute their mission to create unpretentious, casual, and creative social venues. “Our concepts are designed to walk the line between refined and casual—not so high-end that guests only wish to come for special occasions, and not so low-end that guests don’t value the experience. This 'polished-casual' balance is what makes Public House approachable,” says Stoioff.

Public House’s food echoes that mantra. Executive Chef David Blonsky showcases his fine-dining chops, pushing the envelope on “bar food” with items such as Mussel Bowls and Steak Frites, but manages to keep things playful by beer-battering cheese curds and fish and chips, and infusing mustards and dipping sauces with beer. “We put in so much effort to show that while there’s a high-energy cocktail scene here, we’re still serious about what comes out of the kitchen,” Blonsky says.

Public House recently launched a brunch menu, which includes whimsical dishes like the Doughnut-Fried French Toast—rounds of housemade brioche topped with a vanilla bourbon crème anglaise and freshly-made seasonal fruit jam. “This dish is a great vehicle to display the fantastic fruit we get from local farmers,” Blonsky says. Other brunch bites include a Spanish Eggs Benedict—with barbacoa braised beef and citrusy hollandaise—and their original take on Twinkies—a weekly special, housemade with sweet fillings such as Nutella or fresh berries. Need a little hair of the dog? Check out a creative brunch shot like the Pancake Stack (Jameson, butterscotch, and an orange juice chaser).

 

“We truly appreciate the importance of innovation in the hospitality industry. Creating unique and elevated experiences for our patrons has been one of the keys to our success." —Lucas Stoioff

 

Rekhson and Stoioff, who met in college, opened their first haunt (the River North lounge, Stone Lotus) in 2006. Shortly thereafter, they formed the hospitality development group DineAmic, and have since grown their empire to include three busy River North spots (the financial market-themed sports bar Bull & Bear, Public House, and the Italian eatery Siena Tavern) and 450 employees. Stoioff draws upon his business background (marketing and law), while Rekhson brings extensive operational experience to the table to launch familiar concepts with a what he dubs “a differentiating twist.” Chef Blonsky oversees all four kitchens.

For those who've met Rekhson and Stoioff, it’s obvious that the balance of savvy and approachability is something they live and breathe. At times, their youthful levity launches into tangents of movie-quoting contests and lighthearted razzing about past frivolities. And yet, the men demonstrate an astute business sense that has made them heavy-hitters in the River North hospitality scene.

“We truly appreciate the importance of innovation in the hospitality industry. Creating unique and elevated experiences for our patrons has been one of the keys to our success," says Stoioff.

At Bull & Bear, Rekhson and Stoioff introduced River North to “table taps”—a pay-by-the-ounce option allowing guests to refill their own pint glasses from the comfort of their booth. Table taps are also available at Public House. Similarly, Public House’s private event space features the “Walltender,” a proprietary technology consisting of six recessed, serve-yourself taps installed right in the wall.

When concepting for Siena Tavern, the 10,000-square-foot newest addition to the DineAmic roster, Rekhson and Stoioff toured the Tuscan region and discovered true Italian food is more about simple, traditional dishes that are created with care than what’s avant-garde. To that end, they chose the restaurant’s motto “from scratch” and recreated what they loved most about Italian cuisine.

“One of our chefs comes in every morning and mixes the flour, water, and eggs to make beautiful fresh pasta—and she’s been making pasta like this for 20 years,” says Stoioff. The signature DineAmic twists come in the details: a comfortable dining room flanked by a high-energy tavern with craft cocktails, an herb garden prominently growing on the wall, and a partnership with splashy “Top Chef” alum Fabio Viviani.

What’s on the horizon for the industrious DineAmic group? Expansion—both in the city and further afield. Rekhson and Stoioff have a Miami outpost of Siena Tavern in the works and are scouting Chicago neighborhoods for a second Public House location.

“With whatever the future brings, I guarantee we will keep creating welcoming and timeless places,” says Stoioff. Rekhson agrees: “We have a great approach to what we do, and we intend to stick with it.”