The latest trend in restaurants is opening something completely different and unexpected inside the restaurant itself.
“We call it restaurant inception,” says chef Greg Baxtrom.
Get the Yakitori Olmsted, and that original menu is taken away and you’re given laminated white ones with badly lit, yellowish photos of drinks and a check-off list featuring skewers of fat shiitake mushrooms, chicken hearts and dark meat threaded with scallions. It’s like cramming a completely different restaurant in one line item on the menu, and you’re starting to see it at restaurants across the country.
“I hate the word ‘experience’ in a restaurant, so what we’re trying to provide is an experience without providing an 'experience',” says Baxtrom. “We just want to exceed guests’ expectations.”
That means taking the simple task of filling in a chicken entrée to the next level. The idea for Yakitori Olmsted came up as Olmsted’s team was planning out the next menu when they all realized they spent all their off-days at their favorite yakitori joints in the city.
“We just try to keep things as playful as we can,” says Baxtrom.
Other restaurants are channeling that same whimsy by tinkering with the very idea of what makes a restaurant. Inspiration comes from something as simple as extra space in the restaurant to what chefs ate over the weekend. Here are three other restaurants in a restaurant to hit up:
Before it was a steakhouse, the space that houses Swift & Sons was one of the largest freezer lockers in Chicago. So chef Chris Pandel nodded to the original with this seafood-focused, all-day mini restaurant.
Mario Batali tapped chef Anthony Sasso of Casa Mono in New York City to give his massive Italian restaurant a Spanish twist—and tons of tapas on a completely separate menu.