NUNN IN THE OVEN
Carnivale turns over a new banana leaf
Sun. March 5, 2023 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn
Hostmark Hospitality's Carnivale, 702 West Fulton Market, unveiled a new VIP bar on March 1, 2023, for specially invited guests over the course of a few hours.
It has been 18 years since Carnivale first opened in 2005 and the venue continues to evolve to this very day. The name Carnivale is a Latin reference to leaving meat behind with the words “carnem levare.” The millionaire partners missed an original opportunity to create a vegetarian establishment and chose instead to serve hearty burgers and grilled skirt steaks.
One of the early investors Jerry Kleiner designed much of the flamboyant decor of Carnivale, possibly slowly being erased and updated starting with this new paint job in the lounge. Diners will now see massive banana leaves and lighter colors to offset the dark interiors.
Photographs of celebrity icons still adorn the restaurant on every level including new seating upstairs that is carved out along the high balcony. Gender-neutral bathrooms have also been added to the north corner of the room that was not there originally.
The Alley at Carnivale is another new addition with a prohibition-inspired style that can be found within the main restaurant. Keep an eye on the company's website for more live performances by musicians such as Tony Ocean, who performed that night, not to be confused with hitmaker Danny Ocean.
This multi-level homage to Latin America is packed full of surprises including a rooftop garden used for ingredients in several dishes curated by the in-house chefs. With this installation, a taste of Miami is clearly referenced here and prepares regulars for the upcoming patio season. A revamp of the menu should have accompanied the cosmetic element found on the ceiling and walls.
The South American, Spain and Caribbean cuisine offered do not match the over-the-top eclectics residing inside Carnivale. Many of the dishes have been on the menu since the previous chef and could use some development. For example, the Ropa Vieja, which literally means “old clothes” has been a staple since the beginning, and could use a fresh take on the classic recipe.
The festivities that night did keep with the theme through from the exotic birds greeting folks as they entered the front vestibule to colorful ballet dancers posing on pointe for photographers by the host stand. There was a feast for the eyes to accompany the charcuterie board and passed appetizers. Attendees were hungry for more as they waited for bartenders to make craft cocktails from scratch in the crowded bar area.
One of the original Carnivale partners, Billy Marovitz mingled during the premiere ceremony and had brief announcements on a microphone as part of the programming. He encouraged people in the room to meet mayoral run-off candidate Paul Vallas who was just one of the many valued guests who were there to see the new look.
The team is curating a return to things that have proved successful in the past, such as the Sunday brunch returning on March 5, 2023, with plans to run through late December. Let's hope for a Caribbean drag queen show to accompany the bacon and bubbles!
Set up a reservation or purchase tickets for The Alley by taking a trip over to CarnivaleChicago.com and clicking on “Event Calendar.”