Chef Tim McKee dishes on his new Uptown restaurant, Libertine

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Photo courtesy of Libertine
Uptown's newest restaurant, Libertine, to open its doors on July 16
If the past few years have seen a boom in the North Loop's dining options, this year might be Uptown's time to shine. And with restaurants like Coup d'Etat and Hammer & Sickle, plus nearby World Street Kitchen and the newly opened Heyday, it's no surprise that the big dog himself, James Beard Award-winning chef Tim McKee, has set his sights on launching his newest concept, Libertine, right smack in the middle of it all.

McKee, who is best known for his prized fine-dining restaurant La Belle Vie, has been consulting with Parasole Restaurant Holdings for a while, and this new concept will take shape in what was once Uptown Cafeteria. The new concept is designed to better suit the maturing neighborhood, and we had a chance to chat with McKee himself about what exactly Libertine will be bringing into the mix.

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Photo courtesy of Libertine
Libertine will focus on lesser known cuts of meat, but will have plenty of veggie options
Hot Dish: Can you start by telling us what Libertine is all about?

Tim McKee: Well, I really wanted to create a place that is as much a bar as it is a restaurant. Johnny Michaels is helping me on the cocktail program. We're getting a couple barrels of whiskey and we'll have a nice American whiskey list. Craft beers will have a real strong prominence and we'll have a few ciders on tap. We'll also have a variety of less expensive options like cans, smaller cocktails, and $3 whiskey shots and things like that.

As far as the food goes, we've been hearing that Libertine will be along the lines of a steakhouse. Is that accurate?

You know, that's kind of the way it's been characterized, but I wouldn't really say it's a steakhouse. We'll specialize in more or less forgotten cuts of meat. There's as many beef varieties as there are pork or lamb, so it really doesn't fit what you'd expect from a steakhouse. That said, it is meat-centric and you'll be able to get a lot of different kinds of cuts that you can't really find anymore.

Are those lesser known cuts an attempt to keep prices down?

Well, there's two things that you accomplish by going for lesser known cuts of meat. Number one, my drive is always for flavor and these are some of the most flavorful cuts of meat there are. The other thing is that you do get a reduced price point on some. The most expensive thing we're looking at offering is $24 and that's for a lamb saddle chop. What that is essentially is two lamb porterhouses, back to back, with the spine in the center. Then we've got the belly flaps that we tie up and it's a really, really great cut of meat that you'll never see anywhere.

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