Parson’s Chicken & Fish, the trendy fast casual chain specializing in — you guessed it — chicken and fish, is opening two new locations in the coming weeks.
But a swift doubling of its Chicago footprint in the West Town and Andersonville neighborhoods doesn’t portend a strategy of rapid growth for the chain launched in Logan Square eight years ago. It’s just the latest curveball tossed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peter Toalson, co-owner of the Land and Sea Dept. restaurant group that launched Parson’s in 2013, said two new locations in quick succession wasn’t originally the plan.
The West Town location, at 2109 W. Chicago Ave., which opens Thursday, was initially intended to open last summer. The pandemic slowed construction, then uncertainty around the public health crisis made opening in spring seem smartest, he said.
Toalson said Land and Sea Dept. is excited about the location, which previously housed The Rookery from 2016 until 2019, and Old Oak Tap before that. Toalson said he had long admired the space and considered it a natural site for a Parson’s expansion.
“It was a no-brainer,” Toalson said. “We scheduled to see it as soon as it came up.”
The West Town location will have the largest bar of any Parson’s in Chicago, which Toalson said will lend “a bit of a different feel that makes it unique.” It will also have a private dining space on the second floor.
The Andersonville location, expected to open in early May at 5721 N. Clark St., has been a revolving door in recent years as home to barbecue restaurant Pork Shoppe from 2015 to 2018 and Stone Fox for just 10 months in 2019.
During the pandemic last summer, Land and Sea Dept. began negotiating on the Andersonville space, which its partners looked at before it became Stone Fox.
Toalson said both new Parson’s locations meet criteria important to the brand: broad open indoor spaces, ample patio seating and sitting on a busy thoroughfare surrounded by dense residential foot traffic. Both will feature menus identical to the other locations, including multiple chicken sandwiches, a fish sandwich, a double hamburger, chicken nuggets and fish baskets, plus an ample bar menu that includes the restaurant’s popular Negroni slushie.
Toalson said Parson’s was never envisioned as a chain, but has grown into one “organically” with four Chicago locations, plus one in Nashville. Toalson said they have resisted offers to grow even more aggressively.
“We were pleased with the success of the Logan Square location and, based on that success, we have been approached often in various ways to replicate the success and do more,” he said. “But it’s something we held closely to ourselves and developed additional locations as they’ve presented to us, rather than pursue a more formalized growth strategy.”
There could be more Parson’s on the way, he said. But Land and Sea Dept. is in no rush.
“If we see a property we like in a neighborhood we feel can support it, then yeah, probably,” he said. “But it’s not something we’re out combing the streets for.”
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