This year Bill Kim opened a restaurant—the Wicker Park iteration of Urban Belly—and now he’s closing one. Saturday, Christmas Eve, is the last day for his Korean/Puerto Rican mash-up, Belly Shack, right underneath the CTA’s Blue Line Western stop. The restaurant has been open for seven years.
Kim said business was good, but with the building’s lease expiring at the end of the year, Belly Shack’s time was short. He made the decision about a month ago as he felt spread thin operating four restaurants; closing Belly Shack will free up time. Kim reminisced on Tuesday morning about learning to cook Puerto Rican food from his mother-in-law and melding his Korean culture with his wife’s.
“We always like to say it’s a love story told through food and I think we did that with the combination of her culture and mine,” Kim said.
Belly Shack was Kim’s second restaurant, following the success of the original Urban Belly in Avondale. He partnered with Cornerstone Restaurants, the same group that counts basketball legend Michael Jordan as a partner. Belly Shack’s counter service was somewhat a pioneer as many operators are now following that casual model.
“We were just adapting to what was going on with the world,” Kim said.
Kimchi hot dogs and other unusual sandwiches highlighted the menu. While they later added alcoholic drinks, the original BYO environment made it a popular option near the Bucktown/Logan Square border. Kim confirmed that some of those items will likely live on as specials at Urban Belly.
Don’t fret too much for Kim. Besides his line of sauces, he’s still got Belly Q in the West Loop, which shares space with a Urban Belly. There’s also the aforementioned second Urban Belly in Wicker Park. The Tribune first reported the closure.