ON LOCATION
 

longman & eagle | chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JANUARY 20, 2015
 


interview by: jenny stites

Longman & Eagle is an unexpected breath of fresh air - a home away from home for Globetrotter in Chicago. The first solo project of Chicago’s creative Land and Sea Dept., the space has been in business just over five years - and has already earned a loyal following of locals and travelers alike.

In the heart of the hip Logan Square neighborhood, it offers convenient lodging halfway between the airport and downtown. A farm-to-table gastropub, six-room boutique hotel, and expandable event space collide to create something casual and refined. The restaurant boasts an extensive whisky collection, and one Michelin Star for each year it’s been in operation. The inn is a modern take on 19th century flophouses, where limited service is countered by unlimited character. As a whole, Longman & Eagle is a creative and boisterous gathering space anchored by good music, outstanding fare and enthralling company.

Globetrotter sat down with one of Longman & Eagle’s Managing Partners, Peter Toalson.

GT: How many partners are involved in Longman & Eagle?

PT: There are four managing partners: Bruce Finkleman, Cody Hudson, Robert McAdams and myself, as well as founding chef & partner Jared Wentworth.

GT: And this was your first solo venture as Land & Sea Dept.?

PT: Land and Sea Dept. has four owners/partners - Cody Hudson, Jon Martin, Robert McAdams and me. After years of working together independently and variously, we worked collectively for the first time on concepting, designing and then building Longman & Eagle. We’ve since done over two dozen projects together - art openings, film screenings, live concerts - and then have opened a number of bar and restaurant concepts, including Lost Lake, Parson’s Chicken & Fish, Thank You. and the forthcoming Chicago Athletic Association project, which includes a handful of concepts of ours, including the revitalized Cherry Circle Room.

GT: Can you tell us the story behind the name?

PT: We always intended for Longman to land in Logan Square, as we were familiar with the neighborhood and felt comfortable launching there. The name references the iconic ‘monument’ at the heart of Logan Square, a piece by sculptor Evelyn Longman, that has an eagle at its top.

GT: At the Inn you have all these small, unique details – Fisher Price tape decks, fixtures made from reclaimed materials, drink tokens. These things make a stay with you memorable. Where did these ideas come from?

PT: The design of the rooms was a wholly collaborative affair, and getting the details right was a big part of that. We were working with a very modest budget, but overcame this with a number of creative, ‘do it ourselves' solutions. We salvaged a lot of the building’s demolition materials to be used in the rooms - old beams and old flooring - to help offset some of our costs. Land and Sea Dept. Principal Jon Martin designed and built the chairs, and used colors based on some of Cody Hudson’s fine artwork.  We opted for simple, built-in elements, rather than paying for and sourcing pre-built, off the shelf pieces. All of this allowed for and required ‘creative use’ as a means of staying within budget. We’re all big music fans, and feel it’s important to have in any room - using cassettes allowed us the opportunity to engage in creative partnerships with artists and friends, resulting in weird mix tapes, and that sort of thing. Details are, in a word, everything.

GT: Opening a successful restaurant is a feat in itself, but you decided to take it a step further with the Inn. Was it a big undertaking for your first solo project?

PT: We bought the building, so had the second floor space to contend with regardless. We started mulling over rooming options, and developed the inn concept from there. Although the rooms opened after the bar and restaurant, we’ve always seen it as a fully integrated concept.

It was a big project, particularly given that we had to do so much of the work ourselves. We even pressed Robert McAdam’s family into service, over the Thanksgiving holiday, and they helped install the hickory ceilings on the first floor!

GT: Did you always know you were going to build an Inn, or was that second floor fair game at first?

PT: We weren’t sure what we were going to do with the second floor prior to purchase. One half of it was a finished apartment, and the other part was stripped back to the studs. The day we closed on the building, we posited the room option, and things went forward from there.

GT: What's the story behind the flophouse inspiration? 

PT: As mentioned, we started looking back at the history of inns in America, and it felt like a good fit. Hotels and inns were the precursors of taverns and the impetus for public drinking in general in cities like Boston, Chicago and New York, eventually evolving into corner taverns and the like. We liked how the various elements reinforce and support themselves, and it all made sense in the context of the building itself.

GT: Why just 6 rooms?

PT: We mulled over various room configurations and layouts - everything from four to seven - and ultimately six proved to be the best fit. It allowed us a variety of sizes, which in turn allows for a variety of price points, from very affordable and beyond.

GT: What type of visitors do you tend to attract at the Inn?

PT: We get all sorts, but generally speaking we attract guests that are mindful of design and appreciate authentic, unique experiences, in a real neighborhood environment.

GT: The magical of Longman & Eagle is that it hangs in this delicate balance between casual and refined. How do you maintain that equilibrium?

PT: We work hard at casual refinement. It’s somewhat selfish, too. We don’t have to turn the lights up or the music down if the drinks, food and service are top notch, you know?

GT: What do you want people to be thinking about when they leave your space?

GT: With Longman (and everything we do through Land and Sea Dept.), we want people to come away knowing everything has been profoundly considered and tightly executed, and this work has been done with the hopes of directly impacting their enjoyment and overall experience while they’re with us.

GT: Your restaurant has received five Michelin Stars. What was your reaction when you got the first one?

PT: We have been both humbled and surprised by each star we’ve received. We’re a bit of an outlier (less so, these days, maybe) when compared to the sorts of places Michelin typically looks to at that star level. We can say that our staff all work so, so hard. So, there’s some pride there as well, as their efforts should be recognized. And we appreciate the Michelin nod in this regard, as it’s our staff that have earned it.

GT: Any celebration?

PT: The evening we get the call from Michelin can get a little…’loose’ towards the end of the night, for sure.

GT: Are there any unexpected challenges you’ve encountered while working on this space?

PT: The building itself was in pretty rough shape when we bought it, so there have been a number of challenges along the way. We close for a three or four days annually to make improvements, so five years in things have gotten better and better.

GT: What has been the most rewarding thing about this venture?

PT: Watching our staff develop and grow has been rewarding, and watching them interact with and please guests is definitely fulfilling.

GT: Do you have any other projects coming up that we’re allowed to know about?

PT: We’ve all got a lot of projects in the works, so 2015 should shape up to be a fun year.