Managing Partner/Owner, One Off Hospitality Group
Among the city's most acclaimed restaurateurs, Chicago-born Donald J. Madia has mastered the art of collaboration in order to execute his singular, unerring instincts for style, atmosphere and hospitality. His unique imprimatur—a blend of visionary inspiration, uncompromising attention to detail, and sense of unlimited possibility—informs some of Chicago's most admired restaurants and cocktail lounges including Blackbird, avec, The Publican, the Violet Hour and Big Star.
For his first project, Blackbird, Madia forged a partnership with Executive Chef Paul Kahan that would ultimately lead to some of Chicago's most ground-breaking and memorable dining establishments.
Another masterful stroke was the appointment of architect and interior designer Thomas Schlesser, with whom Madia has crafted a long-lasting creative partnership to realize his diverse, award-winning projects.
At Blackbird, Madia set out to challenge the old-guard formality of fine dining while crafting a world-class restaurant experience. When Blackbird celebrated its 10th anniversary, the accolades—from prestigious industry awards to photo spreads in publications such as Architectural Digest and Wallpaper*—confirmed that these partnerships, and Madia's vision to reinvent fine dining, had made their impact on the international culinary and design communities.
Madia and Kahan again partnered on avec to successfully challenge another category of dining: a casual restaurant that transcends its classification as a wine bar. Madia's creative team of Schlesser and a cadre of artisan-craftsmen created a space that again drew international acclaim for redefining a category.
Avec pioneered communal dining in a restaurant setting, offering unparalleled ambiance that attracts a large and loyal following of industry professionals including chefs, sommeliers and fellow restaurateurs. Together with its audience of architects and designers, artists, actors and musicians, this revolving ensemble cast brings an electrifying urban energy to the restaurant.
Breaking into yet another category, Madia then partnered on Sonotheque, a "lounge of sound" developed with veteran restaurateur Terry Alexander and legendary DJ Joe Bryl. Designed by Suhail, Sonotheque was a masterpiece of visual and aural energy that drew an international lineup of music impresarios.
Next, the Violet Hour marked another inspired partnership, as Madia again joined with Alexander in collaborating with New York mixology masters Jason Cott and Toby Maloney to redefine the bar experience.
Designed by Thomas Schlesser, the lounge was deemed the most important bar opening of 2007 by Food & Wine magazine. A cavalcade of international press followed, including an accolade from The New York Times' William Grimes as one of the best speakeasies in the nation for its handcrafted cocktails and "Prohibition vibe."
The Publican is a creative modern interpretation of a late-1800s beer hall, with nods to the Belgian pub and the French brasserie. This upstart Chicago restaurant's distinctive character and flawless execution led The New York Times' Frank Bruni to honor the "outstanding newcomer" with a glowing review.
Blackbird earned a James Beard nomination for Outstanding Restaurant Graphics and for Outstanding Restaurant Design in 2001. Blackbird also won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design in 2002, and was hailed as one of the country's 50 Best Restaurants by Gourmet magazine. avec was honored in 2005 with a James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design. In 2009, The Publican won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design and was nominated for the James Beard award for Outstanding Restaurant Graphics.