The news went out late this morning— just one week to the day after Lillie’s Q was shut down by a fire in its Bucktown building, Charlie McKenna was back serving an admittedly limited menu of pulled pork and and coleslaw at the French Market location. Another restaurant in the Metra Transportation Center, Ovie Bar & Grill, invited McKenna to use its kitchen’s smoker to produce what he could and keep the Lillie’s Q name going as the flagship restaurant goes through the long process of rebuilding and reopening. Press representative Dave Andrews tells us that McKenna, caught up in everything from dealing with insurance to finding jobs for his staff to, now, smoking pork shoulders, is focusing more on the job than on talking to the press, but Andrews gave us some more details about the fire and the restaurant’s hopes for coming back— which they are hoping to do on an aggressive timetable in the same location, while realizing that the insurance and reconstruction process has a timetable of its own.
Andrews says that the fire, which started with a basement water heater, resulted in pretty severe damage to the basement office and prep area, where the sauces are also bottled. But the restaurant and kitchen, on the main floor, were not affected nearly so badly by the fire— the worst damage to them came from firefighters using axes to pinpoint the fire, and from smoke. Andrews says that it appears all of the kitchen equipment, including the specialty smokers McKenna played a part in the design of, appears to be functional, and the furniture should be fine once it’s cleaned of smoke damage. The mirror behind the bar and other fixtures are undamaged, but the bar itself was cut into by firefighters, as was the ceiling. Similar damage to some of the apartments above will also have to be repaired.
In the meantime, McKenna is serving a limited menu six days a week at the market from 10 a.m. until it runs out. And he has been focusing on finding places for his staff while the restaurant is closed, tapping into his network of colleagues and already having placed most of them; he vows to rehire anyone who wants to come back when the restaurant reopens. When will that be? Andrews mentions a date, but acknowledges that it’s not really in their hands until the insurance adjusters are finished— as soon as they can be is the only answer anyone can really offer right now.