Concept & Design
West Town’s Porto gives the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal the attention it has long deserved, taking guests on a journey that combines the freshest and finest ingredients available, with multiple wood-burning ovens and grills, ancient preservation techniques (smoking, curing, pickling, dry-aging), and a comprehensive wine list that represents one of the definitive collections in the country today. Porto’s boutique wine list focuses on a new generation of talented, ambitious and iconoclastic winemakers who are reinvigorating and reinventing the vintages across the mainland and island regions of Spain and Portugal, focused on small-production, must-try bottlings.
“At Porto, we share our love for the history, culture, food and, ultimately, people of Galicia and Portugal,” says Bonhomme’s founder and creative director, Daniel Alonso, who, having grown up between the Midwest and his parent’s hometowns in Galicia, has a personal, heartfelt connection to this part of the world and the purveyors who call it home.
For Alonso, research for Porto has been ongoing since childhood, instilling a passion for and relationship with the area that few can claim. Every year the Porto and Bonhomme teams make multiple visits to Baiona and Ribeira, the Galician cities Alonso has considered his second homes since birth, as well as Vigo, home of the largest fishing port in Europe. During the team’s visits to small villages along the coast, including Azenhas do Mar, Cambados, Combarro, O Grove, Corrubedo, Porto and Viana do Castelo, they sit down with the fishmongers, winemakers and farmers who are at the heart of Porto’s menu.
Concepted and designed by Maison Bonhomme, Porto’s interiors create a heightened intimacy between guests, chefs, food, wine and the stories that connect inside two distinct dining atmospheres: the Main Dining Room and Atrium.
Woven harmoniously throughout every surface of Porto are artistic elements drawn from Europe’s visual arts legacy and physical elements that romanticize the sea and the little villages dotting the coastlines of Galicia and Portugal.
Upon entering Porto, the scene is set with custom-designed wall coverings in four one-of-a-kind motifs by acclaimed local artist and regular Maison Bonhomme collaborator Erik DeBat, which envelop the room with evocative prints that recall the beauty of graphic design and lithographic printing of the 19th century. The work by visual artists and designers of this time are as gorgeous and avant-garde today as they were over 100 years ago. The cultural resonance of their work also extends to all table service items, which have been sourced from Sargadelos, a 200-year-old maker of fine ceramics from Galicia.
Intense attention to detail as well as a passion for reinventing vintage pieces and giving historical pieces new life, signatures of Maison Bonhomme, appear throughout Porto. Fourteen early-20th century American composition light fixtures that once hung in the lobby of the historic Continental Bank on LaSalle Street are adorned with an acanthus leaf pattern and their original chain and canopy. Wine storage is anything but ordinary at Porto with a carefully repurposed 19th century 20-foot-by-12-foot Belgian library bookcase beautifully doing its new job. And an 1872 cast-iron balcony, one of two from the Northern Illinois Hospital and Asylum, was rebuilt by ironworkers and wraps around and frames the interior walls facing Ashland and Chicago avenues.
The main dining room is dominated by Porto’s chefs island, the centerpiece of the restaurant, an 80-foot-long oblong counter built with repurposed wood from fishing vessels and 20 slabs of brushed granite. Floating above it are custom blackened-steel and wood shelves whose scale and size evoke the frame of a fishing vessel’s hull. From this intimate space, guests seated in plush navy velvet and brass counter stools interact with Porto’s culinary and beverage teams while watching the dining scene unfold in front of them.
Flanking either side of the chefs island are two cozy nooks, each appointed with plush velvet armchairs and custom brushed granite dining tables. On one side, a monumental Murano crystal chandelier, designed by Maison Bonhomme in collaboration with the Venetian masters, hangs underneath a 20-foot-high skylight.
Porto’s Atrium channels the feeling of a weekend dinner at a fabulous country home; the crackling sound of wood burning in a nearby wheel grill fills the room and stirs the senses for gatherings of up to 50. Calacatta marble and antique brass tables paired with plush velvet armchairs are the perfect seats for couples while an antique 20th century French truck panel table provides seating for larger groups. On warmer days, the atrium’s sliding windows allow the space to become indoor-outdoor. Pro tip: ask to be seated at the atrium’s chef’s counter.