Parachute, the critically acclaimed Korean American restaurant in Chicago, which closed for indoor dining under the first set of pandemic mandates more than two years ago, celebrated its long-awaited grand reopening May 21.
Chefs, owners and spouses Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark originally opened their debut business on Elston Avenue in the Avondale neighborhood eight years ago. They also own sister restaurant Wherewithall nearby.
Michelin awarded Parachute a coveted star in 2015, which it retained until the guide revoked it this year due to the temporary closure.
The couple won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2019. This year they’re up for the national Outstanding Restaurant Beard award.
The Tribune recognized their inspiring response to the darkest early days of the pandemic with a Critics’ Choice Award for The Abundance Setting, a micro-network of intensive support for mothers working in kitchens.
Parachute has relaunched in the same location but with a new space and menu.
“I’m curious if people will actually notice the changes, because I feel like they’re kind of subtle,” Kim said.
The vintage building’s iron steps are gone, and the entrance is now accessible.
“We were grandfathered in to be able to use a portable ramp,” she said. “But it really made us think about the dignity of having servers push someone up a ramp.”
New front windows can open now too.
“We don’t have a patio,” Kim said. “So after going through COVID, we think people just appreciate fresh air whenever they can have it.”
New sound paneling also reduces noise.
“We had such a shoestring budget when we opened eight years ago that we weren’t able to afford these necessary changes,” she said. “But we also didn’t want it to feel like you’re coming into a different restaurant now. We always loved the way it felt homey and modern. All of that is still there.”
What’s not there is the baked potato bing bread.
“It took a lot of energy from the restaurant,” Kim said. “We just wanted to use that energy for other things.”
Of the bing bread, she added: “We released a cookbook, so all the secrets are in there if anyone wants to try it at home. They’ll see it’s a long, labor-intensive process. It’s fun, but the fun wears off.”
Parachute’s new menu leans more Korean than American.
“In place of bing bread, we’ll have rotating Korean pancakes, which is more true to the cuisine,” Kim said. “We have a seafood pancake on the menu right now.”
They also showcase pork bossam. “It comes with pork belly and all the fixings,” said the chef. “It’s like an event in and of itself.”
What’s perhaps most surprising is that each entree comes with cooked-to-order rice.
“I think the best way to eat Korean rice is fresh,” Kim said. “So we’re cooking it with a nutty bottom, and it comes with banchan. That’s Korean hospitality.”
The only dessert is patbingsu, a Korean red bean shaved-ice dessert. “We’re shaving ice to order, spinning the ice cream to order, and it’s going to be seasonal,” Kim said.
The opening variation features sugar snap pea ice, Mick Klug Farm rhubarb and strawberry as a compote, soybean powder ice cream, mochi that’s made fresh and the defining adzuki beans.
“Because the menu is kind of leaning more into the Korean side, we wanted to make sure that the beverage program matched up with that,” Kim said.
They have makgeolli, soju and three rotating cocktails, including a makgeolli piña colada that they call a moko-lada with pineapple notes.
“I feel like we’ve made a lot of improvements in many ways,” she said. “As hard as COVID was, and there were many dark times for many of us, I think the silver lining is we all took some time to think about how we’re going to rebuild better.”
3500 N. Elston Ave., 872-204-7138, parachuterestaurant.com
The Old Post Office building finally delivers a food hall. The hospitality collective behind Revival Food Hall, called 16 on Center, just opened From Here On in the South Loop on Tuesday. The building spans the Eisenhower Expressway, but the dining space opens onto the river, with vendors including outposts of the beloved Italian sandwich deli Tempesta, spicy fried bird specialist Hot Chi Chicken and creative donut maker Familiar Bakery.
433 W. Van Buren St., fromhereonchicago.com
Band of Bohemia’s founder has moved to the suburbs with a modern Midwestern menu featuring open-fire cooking. Former Michelin-starred chef Michael Carroll leads Kindred, which started serving in Elmhurst on May 14. Look for fire-roasted beets, fire-grilled prawns and fire-kissed duck.
119 N. York St., Elmhurst; 630-517-4393; kindreddining.com
A James Beard Award-winning baker opens the most highly anticipated artisan bakery cafe in Chicago. Greg Wade unveiled Publican Quality Bread in West Town on Monday. Yes, there’s his signature sourdough bread, but also lemon meringue croissants and what they called The Big Sandwich, made with pizza bianca, mortadella and a balsamic sour cherry spread.
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1759 W. Grand Ave., 312-605-1618, publicanqualitybread.com
A farmers market favorite has debuted its own shop. Business partners Steven Jarczyk and Daniela Vitale moved Sfera Sicilian Street Food from a ghost kitchen to Edgewater on May 13. They brought their signature arancini, currently available stuffed with wild garlic when it’s not sold out; Chicago-style sfincione slices, topped with crumbled Italian sausage and pecorino breadcrumbs; plus pistachio-cherry cassata cupcakes filled with candied Door County cherry whipped ricotta.
5759 N. Broadway, 773-739-9128, sferachicago.com
Shore Club Chicago, the seasonal restaurant right on North Avenue Beach, reopened for the season May 21. 1603 N. DuSable Lake Shore Drive, 312-635-8058, shoreclubchi.com
Know of a Chicago-area restaurant that’s new and notable? Email food critic Louisa Chu at [email protected]
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