Rogers Park Restaurant Brings Florida Keys To Chicago

The fundraiser runs from Feb. 25 through March 8.

Shannon Blum
February 27, 2020 - 11:23 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Are you dreaming of a vacation, but can’t get away?

Onward in Rogers Park is hosting a Florida Keys Week Fundraiser, bringing some of the warmth of Florida to Chicago.

“We [the staff] are all fans of the Florida Keys and why not bring the nice, warm weather to the cold, snowy weather of Chicago?” said owner Michael Olszweski.

The fundraiser features an entirely changed food and drink menu inspired by the Florida Keys, as well as Key West-inspired decor and music. 

Florida Keys Week Fundraiser
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“Our food is called ‘Floribean', it’s different makeups of food, from different parts of the world, so we have the Caribbean, we have the Bahamian food, we also have Cuban food, and we have Central American food all combined with what we are offering here, at Onward,” Olszweski said.

The seafood-focused food menu, created by Executive Chef Patrick Russ, features favorites like Bahamian Conch Chowder, a Duval Street Burger featuring an eight-ounce patty, white cheddar, slagel bacon, crispy plantain and grilled pineapple slaw; Lobster Lasagnette, with lobster, Manila clams, Tabasco foam, tarragon, and panko; American Red Snapper with coconut rice, mango escabeche, pickled shallots, and crispy onion; and an extensive raw bar with Oysters on the Halfshell, Chilled King Crab Legs, Ceviche Mixto, and more. Menu items range from $6-42.

Russ said he created the menu after doing some research and development. He lived in Miami for some time, and also spent some time in the Keys. 

“A lot of the flavors in southern Florida are what they call ‘Floribean’ so it is a Florida-Caribbean influence, so you will find a lot of these flavors on a lot of the menus down there. So we kind of pulled a lot of inspiration from various menus and then from my past experience of living down there," Russ said. "I just started messing around with some stuff, testing things out and it all just kind of came together." 

Florida Keys Week Fundraiser
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As for the drinks, guests can choose one of the five tropical drinks on the menu’s “Booze Cruize” section.

“We have tiki cocktails, tropical cocktails. The idea of all these is to bring a little bit of warm weather to this cold February month and March,” Beverage Director & GM Vicente Romero said.

The five specialty drinks include the Captain Sloppy, made with vodka, genepy, lime, pineapple, and raspberry; the Costal Ghost, made with rum, Falernum, orgeat, lemon, and passionfruit; the Bull on Wheels, made with dark and blended rum, orgeat, lime, and sfumato; the Frozen Margarita; and the Sex on the Beach, made with vodka, rum, peach jumex, pineapple, cranberry, saline water, and house bitters. Each come decorated with different garnishes and range from $10-12.

“Vicente Romero did a fantastic job with our drink selections. They are gorgeous and they taste really good too," Olszweski said. "It’s a great combination between Patrick Russ, our executive chef, and Vicente Romero, our chief bartender and general manager. They did a fantastic job bringing this together. This is what Florida is like when you go down to the Keys. This is what you see when you are in Florida. We have decorated the restaurant Floridan style and it’s really neat. You get the atmosphere, you feel like Jimmy Buffet and the parrot are here."

Florida Keys Week Fundraiser
WBBM Newsradio/Shannon Blum

While the food and drink will be the main focus of the fundraiser, the restaurant will have accents of Key West’s bright pastel color palette along with pink flamingos, palm trees, pineapple lights, sand and seashell centerpieces, surfboards and more. Tropical rock and Jimmy Buffet will play throughout the restaurant to add to the ambiance.

“It took us a good three weeks picking stuff out. It looks really nice. I am glad everyone likes it. I am proud of everyone who put this together, they did a really good job and I have to give a shoutout to my wife Tammy - you did a great job on this, it looks really good,” Olszweski said.

Proceeds from the Florida Keys Week Fundraiser benefit the the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key and Turtle Hospital in Marathon. 

“Both those organizations, the Dolphin Research Center and Marathon Turtle Hospital, do a great job. They do good work to our natural habitats. I love animals and I love marine life, and that’s where we are going to donate proceeds from our funds that we raise here,” Olszweski said.

Florida Keys Week at Onward, located at 6580 N. Sheridan Rd., runs from Tuesday, Feb. 25 through Sunday, March 8. The restaurant is closed Mondays, and is open Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.-10 p.m.