The trio behind Gundis Kurdish Kitchen—now open in Lakeview—is proud to operate Chicago’s first dedicated Kurdish restaurant. There’s no Kurdish enclave in the city, though there’s a cultural center in Jefferson Park on the city’s Northwest Side. Ensuring they have a taste of home is important for restaurant management.
"We’ll make it in a little bit more modernized way," said co-owner Mehmet Yavuz. "Put kind of our twist on it."
Yavuz arrived from Turkey about three years ago, and while there’s similarity in dishes from Turkish restaurants and from other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries. But it’s not the same.
"It’s more spicy, but probably more greasy, but in all the right ways," said Denisse González, Yavuz’s wife.
Besides the spice level, there’s a bit more citrus kick on Kurdish food, said restaurant partner Mehmet Duzgun. Lamb and eggplant dominate the menu. There’s a dish made in a clay pot that comes with a bit of theatrics, as servers will puncture the bread covering the pot and plate the steamed contents (lamb, beef or chicken with green and red peppers, mushroom, garlic and baby onions) as diners watch table side.
The Gundis is a full-service restaurant with wine and beer. Dinner service is a bit more formal than lunch. Diners will find lamb shanks and steaks for dinner. They’re also launching weekend brunch this weekend. Prepare to be overwhelmed with brunch side dishes, González said. And don’t forget the baklava. Yes, it’s different than the Greek version, Duzgun assured.
The Kurds trace their roots through many countries including Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. The Gundis’ staff also reflects that mosaic, as González—who is Mexican American—said many of them are Syrian refugees. The restaurant is a place where they can share their talents and culture without fear, she added.
Many restaurants have chefs who refuse substitutions, but the Gundis isn’t one of the places. If diners want a specific Kurdish taste and that item isn’t on the menu, Yavuz wants them to tell their server. They’ll do their best to create the dish.
"I think Chicago was missing a Kurdish restaurant," Yavuz added. "Our atmosphere is really cozy and comfortable. All of our customers should feel like they can have anything they want, even if it’s not on the menu."
Try a taste of that Kurdish hospitality today, as Gundis is now open. Read the menus below.
Gundis, 2909-2911 N. Clark St., (773) 904-8120, taking reservations for parties of six or more, open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.