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Parson's Chicken & Fish, the latest venture from Land and Sea Dept. (Longman & Eagle, Beauty Bar, Green Bean Day School & Nursery), won't open until later this spring. But at the Saturday fund-raiser for the South Logan Arts Coalition, about 100 guests got a preview of the space and some sample bites from executive chef Hunter Moore (Nightwood, Girl & the Goat, Lula). Moore said his full menu will feature "elevated shack food"—coastal, southern staples such as fried chicken, hush puppies, and raw oysters.
About half an hour before the event began, Parson's general manager, Max Wolod (North Pond, Xoco), was reviewing the evening's craft cocktails with a bartender friend from Big Star who'd volunteered to help out. While they worked, co-owner Peter Toalson (Empty Bottle) took a break from his own methodical preparations to give an early arrival a tour of the space.
The tour was quick. The dining area, with plain white walls, wooden booths, and a small steel-top bar, has seating for about 40, though there's no official occupancy yet. The size of a spacious master bedroom, the seating area is only about 20 square feet larger than the building's newly added restroom wing. The restrooms are admittedly roomy.
Reports of a mid-April opening were premature, and Toalson could only predict "sometime this spring" after weather delays to outdoor site work. His outdoor plans are ambitious, with early drawings showing seating for 150, one insider says. Toalson envisions a meticulously landscaped patio, planted with native trees and prairie grasses. Reclaimed shipping containers would house a raw bar and booze bar to serve the summer crowds.
Parson's filled quickly when the fund-raiser doors opened. The crowd began to spill into the capacious restroom wing. Opinions on the restaurant's prospects ran high.
"The fact that they've done Longman & Eagle is all that most people will need to hear," said Ryan Wilson, a landscape architect at the Center for Neighborhood Technology. Wilson sees Parson's becoming a "linchpin of development" on Armitage. "I can't imagine it's going to fail."
"I'm completely confident that they'll do well," said Gwendolyn Zabicki, the executive director of the South Logan Arts Coalition, whose bright red dress punctuated the party's dark palette of denim and plaid. "With their pedigree—just the name alone, people will go."
Still, it is a restaurant. "Success is never guaranteed," said Toalson. "I wish it were." Asked if Land and Sea Dept.'s pedigree would help, he chose his words carefully. "We'll apply the same attention to detail that we do to every project."
Toalson's attention to detail seems meticulous—he mentioned a scheme to have the CTA replace a nearby bus bench with something more aesthetically correct. At the fund-raiser, he moved efficiently behind the bar, delivering bites from the kitchen just so.
They were pretty good, for what it's worth.