After just over two years in business, Lincoln Park's OMC Smokehouse is preparing to expand.
Louis Hanson, a managing partner at OMC - short for "oink, moo, cluck" - said he plans to punch a hole in the east wall of the restaurant, between a portrait of a pig and cow. OMC purchased the building next door, 1907 W. Superior St., for $425,000 in December.
The building's previous owner, Keith Bender, approached Tom Hanson, Louis' father, with an offer to sell.
"It's not something we anticipated, but we feel invested in continuing to push this neighborhood forward," said Hanson of the opportunity.
If all goes according to plan, Hanson expects to spread into the space next door by May.
The restaurant currently seats 72 people, but Hanson said he'll be able to comfortably accommodate about 100 people when the project is completed. The new space also will feature a craft cocktail bar, serving up classic drinks such as old fashioneds, Manhattans, whiskeys and a host of signature libations.
Hanson sees much promise in the space, with its high ceilings and exposed brickwork. He plans to install wooden flooring and furnish it with high-top tables.
"These old buildings have incredible character. You just need to embrace it," he said.
As a popular addition to the Lincoln Park dining scene, OMC is often filled to capacity.
"This should provide a little more space for our guests and improve the dining experience," Hanson said.
But he said it made sense for OMC to start small.
"We wanted to operate within our means, so we wouldn't be captive to a mortgage," Hanson explained.
In all likelihood, Hanson said the business would likely operate more profitably with its current configuration, but he said the expansion should make the restaurant more comfortable for patrons and will provide for "a better flow."
The Hanson family continues to invest in its Lincoln Park restaurant holdings, beginning with the Duluth Grill, then opening OMC in February 2017 and Corktown Deli & Brews (1906 W. Superior St.) in June 2018. They're also planning to launch a taco bar/arcade at 1902 W. Superior St.
Hanson acknowledged the pace of his family's expanding restaurant enterprise has been a bit overwhelming at times, but he said: "If you're not growing, you're dying."
Lincoln Park's business scene is thriving in a way Hanson said few previously would have imagined.
"Three years ago, you probably wouldn't see a single car on this street, but now it can be hard to find a place to park," he said.
Hanson said the atmosphere of the neighborhood's emerging craft district is pushing everyone to raise their game.
"There's a real sense of momentum and camaraderie. At the same time, everyone is working to maintain a unique competitive edge and manage high expectations," he said.