So on first meeting Kahan, 43, one might expect some arrogance or, at the least, affectation. Instead, he's all bed-head and Midwestern bonhomie. Arrestingly unpretentious, Kahan is the sort of guy who regularly goes ice fishing and refers to himself and his partners as "knuckleheads." It's as if the coolest guy on the company softball team also happens to be a star tenor at the Met.
Kahan's well-maintained reputation for regular guyness is one reason it's not shocking that his next project is a gastropub, albeit one with grander aspirations than most Chicago taverns. The as-yet-unnamed beer-centric neighborhood joint, slated to open in spring 2007 on the North Side, will feature the same style of food—obsessively seasonal and both straightforward and brilliant—that Kahan has become known for at Blackbird and its casual sister restaurant, Avec. Blackbird's sous-chef, Dylan Fultineer, will oversee the menu, which Kahan describes as "elemental, fun, American, pork-centric bar cuisine." Even some of the desserts, by Blackbird's talented pastry chef, Tara Lane, will be beer-friendly. A list of 60 or so international brews will rival some restaurant wine lists in breadth and quality.
"We wanted to do something nobody else in Chicago is doing," explains Donnie Madia, one of Kahan's partners. Kahan, true to form, offers a slightly more succinct explanation: "Donnie and I really like to drink beer."