Cherry Circle Room

Art Direction / Build / Concept / Curate / Design / Restaurant

“The most physically impressive project to date from Land and Sea Dept.” – The Chicago Reader

When we first toured the space, the Chicago Athletic Association was a derelict, shuttered 100-year-old private men’s club, one that hadn’t, in its rich history, ever been open to the public proper.

When asked if we were interested in developing concepts for the second floor of what has now become a mixed-use hotel space, we vigorously (yet with some trepidation) set about our work, developing a number of concepts that would broaden, compliment and honor the building and its various component uses.


The first of these, a reimagined Cherry Circle Room, is a bar and restaurant concept located in the way, way back of the building, an iconic space that lovingly reinvents the establishment that served the club’s original members for generations, dating back to the 1890s.

Conceptually, we referenced the building’s history of exclusivity, playing on themes of club cultures and secretive membership societies, offering a furtive, playful glimpse at this past, but in a more expansive, inclusive manner that more so reflects contemporary notions of good taste and modern sensibilities.


Cherry Circle Room - Cameo Kirby : credit Clayton Hauck.JPG

Under the creative direction of LSD, acclaimed design group Doubleday & Cartwright designed an identity system that references the enigmatic fraternal organizations of years past, going so far as to develop our own icon system and internal mythology that is represented visually throughout the space – on dishware, custom-designed, handmade banners, linens and more.

The landmarked status of the building presented a number of build and design challenges, forcing a variety of creative workarounds. The original cherry wood-paneled walls had to remain, as did the curving bar, the mod-ish drop ceiling and lower back bar. LSD companion company Mode Carpentry designed and constructed historically relative elements, including a newly conceived upper back bar of epic, epic proportion. (Which also keenly obviated a desperate need for storage space.) In addition to hundreds and hundreds of bottles of spirits and wine, the back bar is now richly layered with a collection of art objects and vintage curiosities that further the franternalistic vibe. Yes, this does indeed include a stuffed baby calf.

In 2016, Land and Sea Dept. and Mode Carpentry were awarded the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design (76 seats and over). LSD owners Cody Hudson, Jon Martin, Robert McAdams, and Peter Toalson took home the honor at the Awards, taking place for the first time at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, making the hometown honor even sweeter. 


Land and Sea Dept. worked with local clothing manufacturer Stock Mfg. on the design and fabrication of staff uniforms for the Cherry Circle Room, a line that includes a number of custom-made, distinctive aprons and shirts for bartender, kitchen staff and server positions, respectively.


Executive Chef Peter Coenen created a number of menus across services, refined and rustic takes on regional American cuisine inspired by historic CAA menus found at the New York Public Library, dating back as far as 1899.

LSD Beverage Director Paul McGee designed a cocktail program featuring both seasonal house cocktails, as well a menu of historically inspired specialty drinks, the first being Jacques Straub’s ‘Drinks’, written in Chicago in 1914. Sommelier Andrew Algren’s wine offerings take inspiration from the restaurant’s original wine programs, with a focus on American and French varietals. We also partnered with our friends at Marz Community Brewing to create “Cherry Circle Rye”, a limited-edition tap beer that is available at the restaurant exclusively.