Edward Kim on Where to Eat & Drink in Chicago
After graduating from culinary school, chef Edward Kim worked in kitchens in Los Angeles, Seoul and New York City—most notably under Thomas Keller at Per Se—before returning to his native Chicago to open Ruxbin in Wicker Park. After the wild success of his globally-influenced 32-seat neighborhood BYOB, Kim opened the more casual Mott Street two years later just a few blocks away. Both have struck a chord with Chicago diners, quickly becoming essential Windy City eats. Below, Kim shares his top picks for Chicago, from the best croissants and Italian beefs in town to his favorite al fresco dining.
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Credit: Nolan Wells
One of my favorite bakeries in Chicago. I have a soft spot for any establishment that is unabashedly gluten-friendly. This bakery not only offers the best croissants in town, it’s also a gem of a restaurant that offers a wonderful breakfast and lunch menu that’s enthusiastically fresh and vibrant. cellardoorprovisions.com
Credit: Al’s Italian Beef
A Chicago staple, this is our city’s version of a French Dip, but oh so much better. Al’s on Taylor is the original location, so it will always have that extra charm above and beyond any of its sister locations. Order an Italian beef, and make sure to eat it on the premises, because the glorious soggy goodness won’t translate well for carry-out. I like to order mine with cheese, sweet and spicy peppers, wet, topped with giardiniera for good measure—with a large Coke and crispy fries. alsbeef.com
Credit: Quinn Wharton
I’m biased but this is one of my top two favorites in Chicago (the other being Mott St). Ruxbin is on its 5th anniversary and I feel that it’s always been the little train that could. We have limited space and a tiny kitchen, but from this tiny crucible, we’ve been able to produce some amazing dishes, relationships, and a restaurant whose background is steeped in tradition and technique, while still being bright-eyed and innovative. Every night that I am able to work a service at Ruxbin, I find myself incredibly blessed to be a part of the kitchen, and proud of the product we put out. If you’re here between late spring and fall, ask for a dish that best showcases our rooftop garden. Making dishes that are hyper-local—literally picked minutes before doors open for service, and grown by our cooks—makes that dish uniquely special and vibrant. If you’re here in the winter, one of our staples and a favorite that is rarely taken off the menu, is the hanger steak. ruxbinchicago.com
Credit: Clayton Hauck
If you’re looking for a more immersive Chicago experience, I would recommend staying at Longman & Eagle, with the caveat that I’ve never stayed there myself, but have eaten there plenty of times. Rooming above a whiskey bar might not seem like the smartest idea, but the rooms look beautiful, the restaurant underneath is fantastic, and the lodgings are located in the heart of Logan Square—one of the most friendly and exciting neighborhoods in Chicago, perfect for an energetic explorer. longmanandeagle.com
The best way to spend a Saturday afternoon
Credit: Clayton Hauck
On a warm summer night, stroll through Millennium Park and find a spot to lay down a blanket and enjoy a light picnic while taking in one of the many free concerts held throughout the season. Al fresco dining also has a special resonance in Chicago because we’ve all most likely been traumatized by a horrid winter, and become exceptionally giddy about the lush green that envelops the city during the summer. My favorite outdoor dining experiences are great Italian food at Piccolo Sogno, fried chicken at Parson’s Chicken & Fish (patio pictured above), and a bowl of boat noodles on the patio garden at Mott Street.
One attraction you shouldn’t miss
I’m a chef, so for me the most exciting thing about traveling is the food that each locale has to offer. I think Chicago’s food scene is on par with any other city, any other place in the world, from low to highbrow. We don’t have access to the best growing climates for most produce, and we’re landlocked so we don’t have the best access to seafood, but I feel that as is most often the case, our limited tool box inspires creativity. Our city offers a range from Mexican to Chinese to some of the most haute, revered cuisine in the world, exemplified by places like Alinea. When you come to Chicago, you need to come with a big appetite, and enjoy not only the restaurants that locals might experience once in a lifetime, but the ones that they visit regularly with passion and joy. Knowing what people enjoy eating and what restaurants they love, provides insight about what they cherish and find important. If you want to know Chicago, as with most other cities, know its restaurants and its food.
About Edward Kim
Born and raised in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, Chef Edward Kim moved to the Big Apple, where he attended New York University, earning a B.A. in political science with the intention of becoming an attorney. Choosing to go in a different direction, Chef Kim enrolled in Pasadena’s Le Cordon Bleu, where he rekindled his passion for food and cooking, and graduated with a culinary degree.
After culinary school, Chef Kim honed his skills in various New York and Los Angeles kitchens under a number of acclaimed chefs and other respected individuals in the culinary community. He served as chef de cuisine at Elements Catering (Pasadena, CA); commis during an externship at Per Se; and garde manager at Meson G (Los Angeles, CA).
In 2011, Chef Kim – with the help of his wife, Jenny Kim, sister, Vicki Kim, and friend, Nate Chung – opened his first restaurant, Ruxbin, in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Two years later, Chef Kim and his partners opened their second concept, Mott St, a more casual restaurant that showcases family-style fare in a relaxed environment.