After years of working at high-end restaurants in Chicago and New York, acclaimed creative chef Mike Sheerin's next move is casual. Sheerin (Blackbird, Trenchermen, WD-50), along with partner and 20-year operations management vet Aaron DiMaria, is planning to open Packed, a fast-casual dumpling restaurant, in the summer. They're still in negotiations for a space so the exact location is currently unknown.
Sheerin has been testing and perfecting recipes for the last three months, including at popups. He's planning an array of ingredients sourced from local farms in the dumplings—"anything from broccoli and cheese to lobster and vanilla," he says—using house-made wrappers in flavors that include black sesame, curry, and tomato. Sections will include traditional wrapped dumplings, soup dumplings, and "unpacked" (open-faced dumplings).
"Anything that we can fit into a dumpling," Sheerin says when asked about the fillings. "It will be fun and interesting and delicious." He adds that flavors will change regularly, and that the size of the space will dictate the size of the menu.
Sheerin, last seen heading the kitchen at Cicchetti before its sudden shutter, is joining a growing trend of acclaimed chefs who are trying more casual concepts. Danny Meyer, whose Shake Shack empire is the best example of a superstar chef's successful casual concept, was recently valued at more then $400 million after his worldwide burger chain went public.
Look for Sheerin's casual and creative take on dumplings, fully titled Packed: Dumplings Reimagined, to open in a few months, and stay tuned for the exact location. And Sheerin won't be exclusively tied to the concept, so more projects from him may be on the horizon.