Rick Bayless Reveals New Projects: Cruz Blanca Brewery and Leña Brava, an All-Wood-Fired Restaurant

© Adam Alexander

By Justine Sterling Posted March 21, 2016

For years, Chicagoans have speculated about chef Rick Bayless’s plans for the spaces he leased on Randolph Street way back in 2013. Now, there are answers. Bayless will open two new spots: Cruz Blanca Cervecería and Leña Brava.

In a Facebook post, Bayless revealed that Cruz Blanca will be a brewery inspired by an 1869 Mexico City brewery of the same name, which is responsible for the first Mexican lager. Headed by brewmaster Jacob Sembrano (formerly of Goose Island), the brewery will specialize in a Bière de Garde made with local ingredients. Cruz Blanca will also be a “taquería of sorts” modeled after the “taco corridor” in Oaxaca’s 20 de Noviembre market. On the menu: red chile pork cecina, chorizo, avocado salsa, grilled cactus, homemade tortillas and more—all prepared in what Bayless calls the “tiniest kitchen you’ve ever seen.”

Next door to the brewery, Bayless is opening Leña Brava, a Baja-inspired restaurant featuring 100-percent wood-fire-cooked foods. There won’t even be an option to cook something in a conventional oven—there’s no gas hook up. The menu will be seafood-centric with things like abalone, opah, sea urchin and yellowtail, and the wine list will offer bottles from Valle de Guadalupe, Baja’s growing wine country. The bar, on the other hand, will take its inspiration from Oaxaca with a large selection of mezcals, including a house mezcal that is a collaboration between Bayless’s team and a local Oaxacan producer.

The new spots are coming soon. Bayless didn't reveal dates, but said both would open within the next two months.

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