Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim
Chefs, Parachute and Wherewithall
After the applause Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim received for Parachute, their neighborhood Korean-American spot, we wondered what they’d do next. The answer is Wherewithall, an Avondale restaurant with a menu that changes regularly, sometimes daily. How challenging is that? “In the heat of the summer,” says Clark, “menu changes and new ideas are almost too easy: produce is abundant, beautiful and delicious. In the dead of winter, sourcing becomes scarce, and we tend to start with an idea first and then source the products. The frequency of winter menu change is a few days slower, but the dishes we come up with are always solid as we rely more on our techniques and experience.” Clark and Kim also have another challenge: raising a newborn in a restaurant environment. “Bowie was born eight weeks before our opening night, so it was necessary for Beverly to keep him close. All three of our kids spend time in our restaurants. Our life is what it is, and it’s important to us for our children to know where we are and what we do and to be part of our family dynamic.”
There’s no shortage of great restaurants in Logan Square, but the laid-back vibe and incredible homemade pasta at the vegetable-focused Daisies set it apart. Chef Joe Frillman’s menu is a love letter to the Midwest, with dishes like fried mushrooms and cheese curds with tarragon-buttermilk dipping sauce, and pierogi with “beer you cook with.” The dishes at Daisies are a family affair: Frillman gets much of his produce from his brother’s farm nearby. “Having an unbelievable resource [like that which] we get to utilize all season long drives us to better utilize his product in creative and delicious ways,” Frillman says. Daisies launches a lunch menu this summer and Frillman hopes that it will be another chance to build relationships with Logan Square’s expanding population.
Jared Rouben and Jared Wentworth
Brewmaster and Chef, Moody Tongue Brewing Company
Moody Tongue brewery’s new space is full of rich colors, warm wood and luxurious fabrics that transport you away from the city––and that’s how brewmaster Jared Rouben wants it. “I love the idea of walking into a restaurant and finding an escape for a few hours,” Rouben says. “The opportunity to relax in luxurious furniture and gaze into a fireplace with someone you love, a drink in your hand and a delicious plate of food is the mental vacation I hope we provide for our guests every day.” Rouben’s quirky beers––think black truffle pilsner and chocolate churro porter––are the ideal accompaniment to chef Jared Wentworth’s menu of seasonally inspired plates. “My favorite part of the day is discussing pairing possibilities with chef Jared Wentworth,” Rouben says. “I look forward to continuing the process, particularly once the farmers market begins in May.”
Chef, Brass Heart
Matt Kerney of Brass Heart wanted to push the limits of the tasting menu with one tightly focused on plant-based food. He had seen fine-dining vegetarian tasting menus at Charlie Trotter’s years ago, but Kerney, formerly of Michelin-starred Longman & Eagle, thought he’d go Trotter’s one better with a fine-dining vegan menu. “A vegan diner is looking for an interesting and fun new way to see their favorite vegetables,” says Kerney. “Much of current vegan food is trying to trick people into thinking they’re eating meat. We sought to serve them vegetables, in a fun way, not in a way they had seen before.”
Korean food is increasingly visible on the Chicago dining scene, and one spot earning significant attention is Andersonville’s Passerotto, where Jennifer Kim (previously of the One Off Hospitality restaurants Blackbird, Avec and Nico Osteria), puts out beautifully composed Korean dishes with a twist. Kim wants people to think differently about the cuisine of her childhood; she pairs it with wine and cocktails, and Italian items like golden raisin caponata and manicotti dot the focused menu. As a woman of color, Kim says she looks for ways to create connections within the community. “We have two or three bigger projects in the works to connect, support and grow with marginalized groups within the hospitality industry,” she says.
Since Otto Phan opened Ky?ten in Logan Square in August 2018, Chicago has embraced his omakase. “Chicago has a lot of great places with tasting menus,” says Phan, “but none of them focused on sushi, until just recently.” The local lack of high-quality omakase menus was what convinced the Texas native to seize the opportunity and practice his craft “on a higher stage” in Chicago. Through his twenty-course tasting menu, Phan expresses his talent and personality, offering curious eaters a unique dining experience. “Chicago has been so accepting of me; I want to keep giving my craft to the city and push the limits of what Ky?ten can be.”
Chef, Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio
In a city with an abundance of Italian options, Sarah Grueneberg showcases a unique and worldly perspective on regional Italian cuisine with her West Loop hotspot, Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio. At Monteverde, chef Grueneberg pays homage to her love of Italian food and wine, while putting her “personal upbringing and story” into every dish. The 2018 Jean Banchet Restaurant of the Year focuses on freshly made pasta, an endearing task that Grueneberg believes has “reinvigorated people’s interest” in everyone’s favorite carb. This November will mark Monteverde’s fifth anniversary, a milestone that finds the James Beard award-winner in disbelief. “It blows my mind! It still feels like we’re the new kid on the block,” Grueneberg says. With her talented team brainstorming ideas, diners can be sure to expect a grand celebration worthy of her nationally acclaimed restaurant.
Chef, Black Bull and Porto
At Black Bull and Porto, both restaurants in the Bonhomme Hospitality Group portfolio, chef Marcos Campos makes dishes such as paella that he’s known since his youth in Galicia on the northwest coast of Spain. The newer restaurant, Porto, deals in canned seafood, or conservas, composed into wonderfully complex and innovative dishes. “Many people in Galicia just want traditional cuisine; they want well-done traditional food, and they’re really not open to trying something new. For Porto, I wanted to do something new, as I do with the conservas. In Galicia, they just open the can and eat; they don’t use conservas to build other dishes. To me, conservas deserve more respect.”
If the Chicago dining scene were to name a rebel in its ranks, it would be Michael Carlson. After turning down the opportunity to open Alinea as sous chef in 2005, Carlson gleefully disrupted fine-dining rules with his restaurant Schwa. Innovative dishes that toyed with molecular gastronomy mixed with a boozy, loud atmosphere where the kitchen and dining room bled together—and it all worked! Even rebels mellow over time, and while Carlson may not party like he used to, his influence on Chicago restaurants and on some of the city’s most successful chefs ensures his unique point of view will rock on.
Chef, Swift & Sons, Cold Storage and Cira
Few chefs juggle as many restaurants as Boka Restaurant Group chef Chris Pandel, with Swift & Sons, Cold Storage and Cira in his portfolio. “It’s a blast to have so many fun projects,” says Pandel. “I’m grateful to have amazingly talented and dedicated teams at each restaurant that keep me moving and on my toes.” Pandel has been “personally energized” after opening Cira in 2019, saying “Cira’s first year has been wonderful and we are continuing to evolve.” No matter which restaurant Pandel is at on any given day, his food philosophy is constant: “While the styles and inspiration for each [restaurant] menu may vary, the philosophy remains the same: to cook crave-able food.”
Dining and Drinking Editor for Newcity, David also writes a weekly food column for Wednesday Journal in Oak Park and is a frequent contributor of food/drink and travel pieces to the Chicago Tribune, Plate Magazine and other publications. David has also contributed chapters to several books, including Street Food Around the World, Street Food, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org