Father and son teaming up to open new Barrington bistro

  • David Koelling, left, and Jessen Koelling plan to open gigi, a new bistro in Barrington. David Koelling is a longtime restaurateur who has owned and operated eateries in Barrington and Wauconda.

    David Koelling, left, and Jessen Koelling plan to open gigi, a new bistro in Barrington. David Koelling is a longtime restaurateur who has owned and operated eateries in Barrington and Wauconda. Courtesy of David Koelling

 
Updated 10/4/2022 6:20 AM

A former Barrington restaurateur is returning with his son to open a new dining venue in a familiar location.

A wine bar and bistro named gigi is planned at 131 Park Ave. in Barrington, the site long occupied by the Bread Basket restaurant, a breakfast spot that closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Barrington residents David Koelling and Jessen Koelling are behind the venture.

"We have designed it around what we felt the town needs, which is a neighborhood bistro," David Koelling said. "It's just a place you can go and get a great meal and some fine wines without a lot of fluff."

The menu will offer items including duck confit, oysters on the half shell, roasted chicken and fresh fish.

"We have some great sourcing lines with seafood and are going to have beautiful seafood," David Koelling said.

The restaurant is slated to open in mid-December, depending on the supply line. The village also needs to give design approval for planned interior work, which Koelling describes as an update, not a "gut job."

He's aiming for a place where "you walk in the first week and you think we've been open for five years."

The name David Koelling might be a familiar name to longtime Barrington residents. As a chef, he earned the first Chef Legacy Award in 2018 from Meals on Wheels Chicago's Chef Council and once owned The Greenery, a fine dining restaurant on North Avenue in the 1980s and 90s.

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"It was kind of a cutting-edge regional American restaurant," he said. "It was the first restaurant to win a Wine Spectator award with an all-American wine list."

Koelling opened Biloxi Grill in Wauconda in 1997 and operated it for about seven years. He was also president and chief operating officer of Odyssey Cruises, which operated a dinner cruise boat at Navy Pier, and later expanded into Boston and Washington, D.C.

He is currently president of Strategic Dining Services, a dining management company.

"We manage other people's dining operations nationally, mainly in senior living and some country clubs and schools," he said.

Jessen Koelling has cooked professionally in Chicago and worked in kitchens around the world, including Italy, Argentina and Japan, as well as Napa Valley's French Laundry.

"I have wanted to get back in the game for some time, just trying to find the right time and the right opportunity, and when Jessen was ready from a developmental standpoint, it just was like a perfect storm," David Koelling said. "It was just like, all right, let's do this together and have some fun."

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