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Navy Pier is set to welcome locally and internationally celebrated Chef Art Smith and his new restaurant, Reunion, to Chicago’s iconic lakefront destination when it reopens in spring 2021. Reunion by Art Smith—which will be located near the southwest entrance to the Pier in the space formerly occupied by Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.—is a new restaurant concept that will feature a robust menu of healthy and classic comfort foods, while reflecting the look and feel of Smith’s Chicago home kitchen, where his culinary career took flight. The restaurant will also showcase some of Smith’s favorite elements of the city as part of its décor.
“Navy Pier truly is a special place. It highlights the absolute best that Chicago has to offer—from art, music and entertainment, to shopping, cultural experiences, and of course, exquisite dining,” said Chef Art Smith. “I look forward to enhancing that experience by bringing to life the comforting sounds and smells of my kitchen, along with vibrant décor that speaks to a town known for its warm welcome, family life and rich history of good food. Reunion will embody all that makes Chicago and Navy Pier so wonderful and highlight the aspects of this city that I have come to cherish through my experiences of cooking for Chicagoans and guests.”
Smith’s culinary roots can be traced back to his Hyde Park home in Chicago, where he opened his kitchen to celebrities, locals and friends, who fell in love with his cooking. Over the course of his career, Smith has received the culinary profession’s highest awards and has cooked for some of the world’s most famous figures, including local and global icons, such as the Obamas and Oprah Winfrey, to whom he served as the personal, day- to-day chef for about a decade. In 2016, Smith—along with partner and Chicagoan Fred Latsko—opened his flagship restaurant, Blue Door Kitchen & Garden, a farm-to-table oasis located in the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast. Smith also has a restaurant located at Disney Springs in Florida, called Homecomin’ Kitchen, where he caters to visitors from around the world.
Smith now looks to combine his experiences to serve more local and international guests at one of the top-attended destinations in the Midwest, with the help of Chicago-based Executive Chef Hector Guerrero, who will head the kitchen at Reunion. Guerrero has served with the Art Smith Company since 2006, starting out as an executive sous chef and traveling around the globe to cook at special events in various countries and serve many of Smith’s celebrity clientele, including President George W. Bush, Prince Harry - Duke of Sussex, the Obama family, Demi Lovato, Sofia Vergara, Oprah Winfrey and others. Guerrero will now serve as the executive chef at Reunion under Smith’s direction.
Navy Pier had set its sights on attracting a restaurant concept with a high-profile and locally-renowned chef since the onset of its Centennial Vision redevelopment plan. Reunion, with Smith’s Chicago roots and deeply respected career, fit the bill for the partnership, replacing national seafood restaurant chain, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., whose lease expired in September 2020.
“As Navy Pier continues to expand its Chicago-centric offerings, Chef Art Smith’s Reunion is sure to make the perfect addition to our robust and growing repertoire of authentic Chicago dining experiences,” said Navy Pier President and CEO Marilynn Gardner. “Beyond the culinary excellence he will undoubtedly bring to the Pier, we are especially excited to welcome a partnership that aligns with one of Navy Pier’s most treasured principles of quality guest experience and hospitality. We are confident that Chef Smith and his team will treat our guests to unforgettable dining experiences and accommodations once we reopen our doors come spring.”
The ownership and management group for Reunion includes Chicago restauranteurs and brothers, George and Manolis Alpogianis of ADM Restaurant Group. In addition to being partners, George is the executive chef of all seven ADM Restaurant Group establishments, while Manolis serves as the director of operations, bringing nearly two decades of diversified restaurant experience and unparalleled passion for people and great food to the management mix. The Alpogianis brothers already have roots at Navy Pier with one of their famous America’s Dog & Burger fast-service restaurants located inside the Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion. With the impending opening of Reunion and partnership with Smith, the duo will deepen their investment in local dining with a full-service option at the Pier.
Construction on the new restaurant is set to begin in January 2021, with a grand opening date to follow in the spring when the Pier reopens.
Navy Pier implemented a short-term closure after the Labor Day holiday in an effort to limit the financial burden and impact of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the organization. With the exception of Offshore Rooftop & Bar, the closure put a halt to all Pier-wide operations, including that of Navy Pier’s more than 70 small local businesses, which had also experienced significantly low attendance throughout the summer as a result of the pandemic. Navy Pier plans to reopen in the spring of 2021.