Taylor Masura

The “Oklahoma” with chicken-fried rabbit and Hoppin' John risotto coincided with J.D. McPherson's November visit to Thalia Hall.

Chicago's 16” on Center Serves Up Sound Bites to Remember

Musicians’ hometowns inspire signature dishes at this Chicago restaurant/event venue.

For 16” on Center, the best dining experiences are multi-layered. Boasting a number of restaurants and event venues around Chicago, the hospitality group is invested in its community—the very name refers to a construction mark that yields the strongest build.  

Since 2016, 16” on Center has partnered with local and national organizations like Cure Violence Illinois, Chicago Public Schools, and Foundations of Music. For every online ticket sale, customers have the option to add a $1 to $10 donation to their order with the nonprofit or charity of choice changing each quarter.

The latest initiative marries the culinary to the musical. Since October, Chef Michael Galen of Michelin-starred Dusek’s Board & Beer has collaborated with musicians who perform at sister concept Thalia Hall next door. Together they create dishes inspired by the artists’ hometowns. These specials are then served at Dusek’s the day or days of those performances with half the proceeds going to the charity of the musicians’ choice.

“The intertwining of food and music combines two of our greatest passions,” says Bruce Finkelman, managing partner at 16” on Center. “So much of our inspiration is caused by the food that comforts us. Giving an avenue for musicians and chefs to explore that inspiration has created some very memorable and interesting dishes, and spurred some great ideas on the stage and in the kitchen.”

Last fall Thalia Hall welcomed a number of artists, including Sam Beam, better known by his stage name, Iron & Wine. Galen worked with Beam, who hails from South Carolina, to make a Barolo-braised short rib with fig-wood smoked barley risotto, sautéed kale, roasted sunchokes, and caramelized fig with a red wine glaze. Proceeds benefited the Rebuild Foundation, which strengthens communities by developing affordable housing and offering free arts programming. 

Sound Bites is off to a strong start in 2018 with acts like Noah Gunderson (with a spaghetti carbonara) and Frightened Rabbit (with a vegetarian haggis). It’s a multi-sensory experience for guests and a gratifying collaboration for 16” on Center.

“We are so blessed to be able to work in an vocation that combines all the things we love, and proud to be able to use our businesses as a vehicle to help others within our community,” Finkelman says. 

read more