For over a decade, Ballyhoo Hospitality has offered thoughtful food and drink in Chicago’s most popular neighborhoods. The last year, specifically, was particularly significant for husband-and-wife restaurateurs Ryan and Anna O’Donnell. Despite unprecedented times for the industry to which they have devoted their careers, the pair expanded their restaurant group by four new concepts alone in little over a year. They credit their success to knowing their guests, delivering heartfelt service, offering a craveable experience, empowering their teams, and looking to new communities. Today, they announce their fourth new restaurant opening since 2020, Buck Russell’s, coming to Wilmette in the Fall.
Before the pandemic, the husband-and-wife team owned and operated four concepts under Ballyhoo Hospitality: Gemini, Old Pueblo Cantina, Coda Di Volpe and Walton Street. The couple met in their 20’s while working for Glenn Keefer, who is now a partner at Sophia Steak. Each concept touches on the personal. Gemini was the newlywed’s first restaurant together and was inspired by Ryan’s final project at Kendall Culinary School. After moving to the Southport corridor in 2013, the couple found a dearth of restaurants and were inspired to open Coda Di Volpe. Old Pueblo Cantina was inspired by Ryan’s early roots in Tucson, Arizona and Sophia Steak was influenced by Ryan’s time on the North Shore. All Ballyhoo Hospitality restaurants strive to be everyone’s favorite go-to spot, even if the guest does not live around the corner. Whether diners are locals or visitors, everyone is considered a neighbor.
“The pandemic gave us time to think strategically about where we are going as a restaurateurs,” says Ryan O’Donnell. “Ultimately, COVID-19 inspired us to spread our wings to serve guests in new destinations throughout greater Chicagoland. We’re excited to continue to expand and grow as a hospitality group.”
The powerhouse couple opened Sophia Steak with partner Glenn Keefer in the spring of 2020 for takeout only, when COVID-19 precautions prevented indoor dining. Their restaurant was acclaimed as an instant success by the North Shore. Ryan and Anna quickly identified an opportunity to serve guests in many neighborhoods outside of the city.
In February of 2021, Ballyhoo announced the opening of contemporary Greek restaurant Andros Taverna in the heart of Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood with partners and another husband-and-wife pair, Doug Psaltis and Hsing Chen. Like Sophia, the restaurant has received rave reviews since opening.
The openings don’t stop there, as Ballyhoo Hospitality will bring an exciting new concept to the North Shore with the summer opening of new French bistro in Winnetka: Pomeroy. Ryan recently announced that he has tapped Jason Paskewitz as Executive Chef for Pomeroy, bringing it full circle as he was the Executive Chef for Gemini back in 2009.
Later this fall, Ballyhoo Hospitality will open a bakery and sandwich shop, Buck Russell’s, in Wilmette. Picture the best bakery and sandwich shop you know, kick it up a few notches, and you’ve stepped intoBuck Russell’s Bakery & Sandwich Shop. Guests can enjoy hot-griddled and sliced-to-order deli sandwiches, crisp chopped salads, and more. The bakery will feature an all-day menu of pastries, freshly-baked sticky buns, coffee cakes, pies, crullers, buttery cookies, cupcakes, and more.
At all of their restaurants, Ballyhoo Hospitality delivers great food and excellent service. They pride themselves on making a memorable impression by treating guests as if every time is their first time walking in the door. Looking ahead, the team is excited to bring joy to new neighborhoods throughout greater Chicagoland.