I could only wait one day before I decided to brave the crowds and check out BellyQ. I am a huge fan of chef Bill Kim's previous two restaurants, Urban Belly and Belly Shack, and this one seemed to be a completely different beast, both in scale and ambition. Though I knew it would be an Asian barbecue restaurant, not many details were released before the opening, and so I walked in the West Loop joint last night unsure of quite what to expect.
I'll just get this right out of the way: BellyQ looks absolutely nothing like one sixtyblue—the restaurant that previously held this address. Though both owned by the Cornerstone Restaurant Group (this guy is also involved), the space was gutted and completely reimagined by chef Bill Kim and his team. Instead of plush and dark, BellyQ is open and airy.
After my meal, Kim was nice enough to give me a tour around the restaurant, which has far more going on than I realized.
Asked what the most exciting part of the new kitchen is, Kim answered simply: "The size." This will allow him to be able to serve more specials, since he now has the space to stock more ingredients. Apparently, his two previous restaurants, Belly Shack and Urban Belly, can fit snuggly in the kitchen here, which should give you a sense of the scale. Basically, it's enormous. The main dining room is the middle, with a bar up front. There are also a number of tables with tabletop grills, so that you can cook your own food. (You can't reserve these, and instead are available on a first-come first-served basis.)
The main restaurant is only one part of the plan. At the western end is BQ2GO, Kim's grab-and-go concept. It features a totally different menu, with a huge emphasis on salads. There is also another dining area, which hasn't been finished yet and may be incorporated into the larger restaurant. Kim also showed me around the private dining room and a lounge space that is all set for karaoke, though he admits he hasn't figured out the logistics of yet.