SMALL RESTAURANTS, BIG IDEAS

SMALL RESTAURANTS, BIG IDEAS

The newest thing in dining out?
Think small: intimate places where the chef in the kitchen…and cooking every night.”

IT’S THAT LITTLE RESTAURANT YOU WISH WERE RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER – THE ONE YOU
would eat at every week if it were. Welcoming vibe. Often no more than 40 seats. Knowing, gracious staff. Smart,
up-to-date food. Eclectic wine list. From New York to Seattle and in between, spots like these are a growing
trend. Casual or formal, New American or traditional French, these little gems have one thing in common: the
chef is cooking every dinner and doing all that’s possible to make sure you have a terrific time. For chefs, it’s a
lifestyle choice, as well as a chance to connect with their customers, scale it down, and really cook. For you, it’s an
intimate setting, impeccable service and delicious food. All around, it’s great news. It’s the rise of the small
restaurant. Take a tour of 12 of them, recipes at the ready.

SCYLLA CHICAGO

She’s a big fan of fish, so ChicagoChef STEPHANIE IZARD named her restaurant after a sea monster from Greek mythology. But Scylla is hardly scary. Tucked into a 120-year-old row house, it’s a cozy spot…which is a rarity in big-shouldered, blusterygo here Chicago. The menu is Mediterranean-inspired, with a “balance of sweet, tart,
and salty on every plate,” says Stephanie, who worked at severalplaces, including Vong, before opening Scylla. Her Grilled Lamb with Curried Vegetables and Grape and Pine Nut Gremolata is a perfect example of fusion done right. You can check out best desserts for restaurants.

Stephanie Izard has been “playing restaurant” since age 10. Back in the day, that meant dreaming up a menu for her friends and family. But as the owner/chef of two-year-old Scylla, she’s learned that the restaurant business is no child’s play. Garnering critical acclaim for her clean, elegant seafood presentations, Izard’s at the top of her game.

After earning two degrees—one in sociology at the University of Michigan and the other from the Scottsdale Culinary Institute—Izard honed her craft of caring for and handling fish while working under Shawn McClain at Spring. She opened her own place in 2005, a red-brick worker’s cottage in Bucktown where the arched roof, hardwood floors and window coves still retain the character of a true home. There’s a warmth and lived-in aura that reinforces boisterous gatherings of friends and family breaking bread.

Though the opening sizzle simmered over time, Izard’s recent retooling of the menu is likely to stir some renewed interest; her goal: to keep entree prices under $20 and make Scylla a more neighborhood-friendly restaurant. While she relies less on luxury ingredients like truffles, Kobe beef or caviar, Izard employs a bit of alchemy, transforming seemingly ordinary pantry items like shallots into a savory, oniony creme brulee custard. The food might cost less, but the flavors and quality are as tremendous as ever before.

What do you wish you could change/pickle about the Chicago restaurant scene?
More places to eat late night than the usual suspects of fast food and Mexican joints.

What would your last meal be?
Sushi and French fries.

Where do you eat before/after a shift?
Arturo’s Tacos at Western and Armitage—I usually get the tostado carnitas.

What’s the can’t-miss dish at your restaurant?
Scallops, but right now I’m very excited about the new spring menu—one of the dishes is the sauteed French gnocchi with manila clams, white asparagus, green garlic, sea beans and a truffle poblano broth.

What should we know about your restaurant that we probably don’t?
The menu has changed. Now everything is under $20.

Five For Frying is a Food Feature that asks one great chef five fun questions.

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