Your event venue and location are crucial to the attendee experience. Not only do attendees love to travel to exciting destinations, but they like to experience the local sights, culture, and, of course, cuisine.
With the launch of our new guide, "The Top 100 Meeting and Event Venues in the United States," we're going to share our interviews with premiere chefs and restaurant teams from the country's most popular meeting and event cities. They'll share what makes their restaurant stand out, how their city influences their flavors, and how they can accommodate events.
Blue Door Kitchen & Garden
52 W. Elm St., Chicago, IL 60610
Chef: Art Smith (pictured right)
CFO & Interviewee: Manny Navar
Blue Door Kitchen & Garden, home to Southern-food maestro Chef Art Smith, is a farm-to-table oasis in the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast. CFO Manny Navar shares more about what makes Blue Door stand out in Chicago's food scene, as well as the restaurant's most popular dishes.
Q: What makes you the proudest about Blue Door?
Navar: "I like the attention the team pays to every detail, from the silverware, plates and centerpieces to the wallpaper, artwork and elegant French country décor. Blue Door Kitchen & Garden has a cozy French country living/dining room atmosphere. Everything works together to make guests feel like they’re eating at the home of a good friend."
"That same attention to detail also applies to our menu. Produce comes directly from our own farm – our namesake and Oprah Winfrey’s former Indiana home, Blue Door Farm. It’s only an hour away. As soon as produce is harvested, it’s on a truck to the restaurant. So we always get the freshest seasonal ingredients and present regional flavors at their best."
Q: How is Blue Door unique?
Navar: "It’s unusual for a restaurant to have its own farm. This enables us to get the best produce and dictate what we put on our menu."
Navar: "Our setting is also unique. Blue Door Kitchen & Garden is housed in a beautifully restored carriage house that survived Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The restaurant is an elegant and intimate space with the original tin ceiling, open kitchen, welcoming bar and lovely courtyard patio. We’re tucked away on a quiet street in the Gold Coast, close enough to see the skyscrapers but away from the bustle of the city."
"And of course, our executive chef and co-owner, Art Smith, makes Blue Door unique. Art is former personal chef to Oprah. He was an audience favorite on Top Chef Masters and other popular TV shows. And he’s cooked for some of the world’s most famous people, including former President and First Lady, Barack and Michelle Obama."
Q: What are the most popular dishes on the menu?
Navar: "Our most popular main dish is Art’s famous buttermilk fried chicken. It’s brined for three days and coated with his top-secret mixture of spices. Our fried chicken is a favorite for everything, from romantic dinners to weddings and corporate events. Guests love the farm-to-table dishes, too, like our brussels and kale salad with toasted almonds, parmesan, bacon and maple tahini vinaigrette. Also amazing!"
Q: How do you accommodate groups?
Navar: "We host small groups of 45 people at the restaurant. We also cater larger gatherings of 200 or more guests, including corporate events, receptions and weddings."
Q: What’s your secret for attracting diners and keeping them coming back?
Navar: "Blue Door showcases Art’s personality and love of bringing people together through food. He has such passion for food and the entire experience. Art likes to go from table to table, asking guests how everything was. Then, he sends them out his famous hummingbird cake, a spice cake layered with bananas and pineapples and topped with cream cheese frosting. People love it."
Q: Aside from the amazing food, what’s the best part of your job?
Navar: "The best part of my job is seeing the staff learn. When I started out in this business, I worked for a company that made me a big believer in hospitality and the idea that everyone should leave happy. The more I wanted to learn, the more time the owner put into training me. That’s something I’ll never forgot. Today, I sit down regularly with our managers and staff to talk about what’s working well and what can work even better. When you take the time to train people well, you get paid back in spades. One of the biggest rewards is watching them grow."
Read more about what to do in Chicago and what the top venues are for meetings and events in the city by downloading our free guide below!