Crate and Barrel Opens Its First In-Store Restaurant in Chicago
Executive chef Bill Kim will serve American fare at The Table, opening this July.
Chef Bill Kim is synonymous with Chicago, noodles, and reinvented American classics (think PB&J matcha soft-serve topped with peanut crunch and berry compote). That’s all thanks to urbanbelly, his longstanding self-described “unpretentious Asian fusion” restaurant he opened with his wife, Yvonne Cadiz-Kim. This July, his career moves in a new direction with The Table, Crate and Barrel’s first full-service restaurant, opening inside one of their stores in a suburb 20 miles southwest of downtown Chicago.
In mid-May, Kim announced his position as executive chef of the experiential restaurant via his Instagram account; his Cornerstone Restaurant Group will act as the operator of the space. With a menu focused on American fare, it’s sure to remind diners of Kim’s versatility in the kitchen.
“Everybody thinks I only cook Asian food, even though I spent 15 years of my career cooking at American-French restaurants.” Kim said. “I worked at the leading American restaurant in Chicago for five years running the kitchen.”
Kim is referring to his five-year run at Charlie Trotter’s—one of the world’s most premiere dining locations with an alumni list that includes Grant Achatz, Graham Elliot, and Curtis Duffy. There, Kim served as sous chef and then chef de cuisine.
In 2009, a year after urbanbelly opened, he and Cadiz-Kim debuted Belly Shack. The fast-casual restaurant served up a mix of Korean/Puerto-Rican fusion, including its popular kimchi hot dog, before closing in 2016. Next came bellyQ, an upscale version of Korean barbecue. The restaurant opened in 2012, and closed in late 2018. Kim’s culinary journey is encapsulated in his first cookbook, “Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces,” which received a James Beard Award nomination this year.
When The Table opens in July, the menu will focus heavily on salads and sandwiches, incorporating dining trends Kim has observed over the last decade. First, he said, don’t expect heaping mounds of food.
“People want to experience the art of dining,” Kim said. “[Diners] are looking to be pleasantly full. No doggy bag. We don’t want our guests to feel like they have to be wheeled out after their meal.”
Menu options include a kale caesar salad made with toasted ground almonds and fish sauce; tartines with avocado, smoked bacon, or chicken; a deep-dish cauliflower lasagna that replaces pasta with paper-thin sheets of whole cauliflower; and a classic burger for traditionalists. Don’t expect a dumbed-down kids menu. Even adults will be tempted by the meatball pot pie and the almond-butter-and-jelly sandwich served on warmed sourdough bread sourced from Publican Quality Bread, led by head baker Greg Wade.
The menu is light on meat by design. As Kim explained, the traditional plate was divided in ½ protein, and ¼ vegetables, and ¼ grains; but today, there’s a larger trend moving to increase the veggie portion and cut back on the meat. Dining options will be divided into shareable Bites, Garden, Greens, Tartines, Bowls, and Mains. Most ingredients will come from local farmers and purveyors Kim has worked with since his days at Charlie Trotter’s.
“We’re part of what’s leading [and] what’s coming,” Kim said, in preemptive response to anyone who might accuse him of selling out by partnering with a large corporation. “I don’t want to be the person who’s last. I want to be at the forefront, looking towards the future. We’re partners with Crate in this.”
As for how this fits into Crate and Barrel’s overall consumer plan, CEO Neela Montgomery said it ties into their customers’ love of entertaining. This restaurant is an opportunity to give them an immersive brand experience.
“Award-winning chef Bill Kim's menu truly captures the modern, effortless vibe that the Crate and Barrel brand embraces,” she wrote in an email. “We immediately fell in love with his food and know our customers will too. Food and beverage is a natural extension of the Crate and Barrel brand.”
According to their website, Crate and Barrel has more than 100 stores and franchise partners in nine countries.