Experience is the name of the game when it comes to senior living dining, and The Clare, a 53-story high-rise continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, spent millions of dollars to provide residents with ultimate dining experiences.
In late April, The Clare debuted new dining options to go above and beyond growing demand for additional choices and food venues as part of a multi-million-dollar makeover primarily focused on the community’s common spaces. CCRCs across the country bounced back in recent years after taking a hammering in the economic downturn and looking for ways to reduce expenses for residents. The Clare was not immune to such struggles, and its newfound focus on super high-end dining suggests the pendulum has swung and the aim has shifted from cutting costs to upscale offerings.
Among the renovations was the expansion of The Clare’s Bistro Cafe, located on the community’s 9th floor. Previously, the space had been a small, self-service area that seated 20 people for lunch and dinner, and it now stands as a larger, full-service, casual dining experience for 50 people. It also boasts grab-and-go options, including pre-made sandwiches and salads.
Still in service is The Grafton, a sit-down restaurant with a full-service bar. A $25 fixed price menu lets residents select a soup or salad to start, a main dish and a dessert. Otherwise, they can pick and choose additional items, like a tenderloin of beef for $33 or a rack of lamb for $28 as an entree.
A complete, open kitchen was added to The Clare’s 53rd floor, as well, allowing for a unique dining experience for residents. What had once been a large event space with stunning views of the Chicago skyline is now Abbey on 53, open two nights a week featuring three- to seven-course meals ranging in price from $50 to $75.
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The venue allows for some flexibility in terms of what’s being served, with a focus on gourmet food and wines. Japanese fare might be offered one night, while fine French dining might be the focus another. The open layout allows Executive Chef Hagop Hagopian to interact with the residents and discuss the meals.
When The Clare unveiled its renovations and upgrades to the media, the Abbey on 53 menu consisted of three courses with wine pairings for each: seared scallop, soft polenta, rapini, tomato and olives; Barolo-glazed short ribs, gnocchi, grana padano and black truffle; and a raspberry macaroon tart.
Additionally, Abbey on 53 has a free, upscale continental breakfast from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. every day. This serves as a way for residents to get a robust meal and deter overcrowding at the bistro during peak hours, Executive Director Kyle Exline says.
The space also incorporated a huge, flat-screen TV and an advanced audio system that connects with residents’ hearing aids for movie screenings and viewing parties.
“We’re thrilled with the end result of the renovations,” resident Sheila Rock said in a statement. “It is a great improvement to our common spaces for everyone to more fully enjoy. What could be more beautiful than sitting on the 53rd floor, enjoying your morning coffee and looking at that magnificent view?”
Written by Kourtney Liepelt