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First Look - Leopold to Bring Belgian Flavors to Noble Square

By Anthony Todd in Food on Dec 20, 2010 5:00PM

Noble Square is the place to be these days. Newcomers like Butcher and Larder are joining established favorites like Branch 27, Green Zebra and Mexique. Add to the list Leopold, a chic Belgian eatery set to open in January. For Chicagoans not familiar with the sublime culinary offerings of Belgium, we have three words for you: Mussels, Frites and Beer. Excited yet?

The space, which formerly housed Relax, has been completely gutted and re-done, as you can see in the before-and-after pictures. Almost all of the old material was repurposed, including amazing reclaimed hardwood that originally covered the ceiling and now forms the bartop and the host’s station. Old chairs were re-covered, the banquettes changed color, and suddenly the space has a whole new personality - and one that we instantly fell in love with. Muted colors, combined with luxurious fabrics and the rich wood create a space that will be comfortable and posh at the same time.

For an outsider, the amazing thing about transforming a restaurant space is how … mundane the process of acquiring furniture and fixtures is. We expect things to come from a secret underground restaurant warehouse, only accessible by those in the know. Some furniture came from Crate and Barrel, some from the Salvation Army (reconditioned, of course) and the amazing stained glass windows that will hang behind the host stand were found, discarded, in the basement - a relic of the restaurant’s former life as a neighborhood bar.

The restaurant will eventually seat 98, including a nook that will seat a large group of eight. Food will be served at the bar, and the deceptively small kitchen looks set to turn out some serious food. Smoked rabbit loin, poutine with lamb sausage gravy and Saint Andre, and homemade veal sausage - the list makes our mouth water. Jeffrey Hedin, formerly of Spring, Green Zebra and the Bristol, will be running the kitchen. The bar will focus on beer and wine, with plenty of Belgian, French and German selections, as well as some American craft brews made in the Belgian style. We will be first in line when Leopold opens.

Leopold is located at 1450. W. Chicago Avenue.