Crosby’s Kitchen opens in Niles, specializing in wood-fired cooking

If you ask Chef Dan Harris why food at Crosby’s Kitchen is cooked over a wood fire, you won’t get a food science response. He’ll tell you that it has a certain taste that can’t be replicated on gas burners.

“It brings you back to a bonfire; it brings you back to grilling at home,” he said.

Harris said Crosby’s Kitchen’s menu aims to provide familiar, approachable American food. The restaurant, scheduled to open on May 21 at 6480 W. Touhy, Niles, sits at the northeast corner of Caldwell and Touhy Avenues. On the menu are turkey burgers, salads, steak, ribs, and its staple rotisserie chicken.

The Niles restaurant has indoor seating for 200, multiple event and private spaces, an indoor and outdoor full-service bar and an outdoor fire pit.

The Niles Crosby’s is the ninth restaurant for 4 Star Restaurant Group, which runs eight other restaurants in Chicago’s downtown and North side, including Frasca, Remington’s and Smoke Daddy. According to Derek Rettell, a co-owner of the restaurant group, the theme and concept of the Niles location are much like those of the original Crosby’s Kitchen in Lakeview.

The Niles Crosby’s Kitchen includes multiple dining rooms that can be sectioned off to suit the purpose of private parties or have them integrated into the main dining room. The executive room can seat between 14 to 16 and can be used for business lunches, he said. A side dining room with booth tables can also be closed off, and a main dining room revolves around a bar that can seat up to 30 people. The main dining room also extends into what Rettell calls “The Library Room,” because of the movable bookshelves that can act as walls, which can also seat up to 40 people.

The outdoor patio has lounge chairs, a fire pit, a repurposed trailer that can be used as a dining room, and an outdoor bar. Rettell said he also anticipates live music, much like the restaurant group’s Wicker Park restaurant Smoke Daddy.

“This is just a fun place to come eat or drink or just to socialize,” Rettell said. “Really happy with the way that looks and feels; it is definitely a neighborhood spot,” he said.

Harris, the vice president of food and beverages for 4 Star Restaurant Group, said he started working in the restaurant industry when he was 14 years old and knew it was something he wanted to pursue. He trained at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island and worked in New York City for six years for Mario Batali, he said.

“To me restaurants are always about family,” Harris said. “I grew up in a family restaurant, so it’s about finding people that you want to work with day in and day out, and that’s what this restaurant group breeds.”

The restaurant group is also eligible to receive up to $1.6 million in tax incentive financing from the village of Niles. A tax increment financing zone is typically created in places that are considered blighted to give municipalities a chance to incentivize developers by freezing property taxes for a number of years.

A number of restaurants have tried, and failed, to succeed at this location. The most recent was Wildwood Tavern, which closed in January 2023.