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Iliana Regan's Japanese Restaurant & Pub Heading to Big Cheese Space on Lincoln

The concept was originally planned for a tire shop next to Elizabeth.

The Big Cheese space
The Big Cheese space
Iliana Regan

North Center and Lincoln Square is getting a Japanese restaurant and pub from heralded chef and restaurateur Iliana Regan, while simultaneously losing a grilled cheese restaurant. Regan, chef and owner of Michelin-starred Elizabeth, is changing the location of her forthcoming homestyle Japanese spot Kitsune to 4229 N. Lincoln Ave. rather than the originally-planned tire shop next to her first restaurant, she says. It will replace The Big Cheese, a restaurant that's been open since 2012.

There's no official word if the grilled cheese spot is shuttered yet, as ownership has not returned messages and it's normally closed on Mondays. But the Facebook page and some exterior signage was recently taken down.

Eventually, the neighborhood will get an array of chef-driven Japanese snacks, ramen, a washoku family-style menu, sides, and Regan's sweets. She is planning to make ample use of the space's 12 beer taps with local craft brews, hence the pub aspect, plus sakes, spirits and cocktails. Mikey Mudrick, Regan's staffer for more than a year, will serve as chef de cuisine at Kitsune, which is named for the mythical shapeshifting red fox of Hokkaido, Japan.

"We've often turned to homestyle Japanese for inspiration so we are super excited to dedicate a spot to it," Regan says. "We want it to be a fun neighborhood spot." Regan has already started a Facebook page and website for Kitsune, the latter with a sample menu and pricing that may change before opening.

Regan will remodel the space and hopes to open in the spring, a timeframe that is subject to the usual permitting and paperwork. She says the delayed Bunny the Micro Bakery in Lakeview, which is more difficult to construct and clear with the city than Kitsune will be, will open first.

The Big Cheese

4229 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 (773) 661-6993 Visit Website