Ford’s Garage restaurant, immersive art experience space coming to Rosemont

Construction on an automobile-inspired Ford’s Garage restaurant and a neighboring exhibit space for immersive art experiences and pop-up museums is expected to begin in six to eight weeks in Rosemont, officials said Monday.

The village board inked a lease deal Monday with a Florida-based restaurant group that will operate the 7,800-square-foot, 1920s garage-themed burger and craft beer restaurant in The Pearl District south of Balmoral Avenue and west of the Tri-State Tollway.

Next door will be the 28,000-square-foot EXP entertainment space for walk-through exhibitions of sound, light and special effects — announced by village officials nearly a year ago under the “Expressions” title.

The village will pay to construct the buildings and for interior build out of the restaurant — currently estimated to be $12 million to $14 million — with plans to eventually sell both structures to the tenants, Mayor Brad Stephens said.

A construction contract must be approved by village trustees.

It will be the first Illinois location for Ford’s Garage, which opened in 2012 less than a mile from Henry Ford’s winter home in Fort Myers. After franchising started in 2015, the restaurant now has 30 locations across eight states, most in Florida.

“It looks like the inside of an old filling station,” said Stephens, joking that the likes of Gomer Pyle may be spotted there.

Indeed, servers wear auto shop uniforms, and classic cars and other Ford memorabilia deck out the dining room, under the restaurant’s license agreement with Ford Motor Company.

The menu is classic “American fare,” Stephens said, from Black Angus burgers to mac ’n’ cheese.

Next door, EXP will boast “expressions, experiences and explorations,” according to plans released by the village Monday.

EXP, a 28,000-square-foot immersive entertainment space, is scheduled to open in Rosemont in 2025. Courtesy of Village of Rosemont

The space will host rotating shows — not unlike the popular Van Gogh and Prince immersive experiences that were held in Chicago. In Rosemont, visitors will put on virtual reality glasses to experience settings such as Egypt and outer space, for instance, though specific shows haven’t been announced, Stephens said.

The art space and eatery will join Carmine’s, Truluck’s Ocean’s Finest Seafood and Crab, Dave & Buster’s and The Rose Hotel Chicago O’Hare within The Pearl, a 16-acre entertainment district that opened in 2018.

The two new venues will complete The Pearl, save for a possible coffee shop or breakfast cafe near the Metra station, Stephens said.

The new buildings are planned for openings in August 2025.

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