Fans’ worst fears were confirmed on Tuesday when Smalls owner Joaquin Soler announced his tiny and acclaimed Filipino restaurant will not reopen in its Albany Park space. The restaurant had been closed for weeks but it took until Tuesday for Soler to make the news official. Though Soler wrote that he loves the space, he wants to be more than a tiny shack for take out. It’s unclear what his next move will be. Smalls opened in 2013.
Soler mentioned, via Facebook, that he’s busy with new projects. He wasn’t immediately reached for clarification to what those new projects might be. Smalls was also closed for a few weeks from February through March as Soler created new items that skewed away from barbecue and focused more on his Filipino roots. He called it a “rice and three.”
Smalls’ St. Louis Parada-style ribs earned a place last year on Eater’s Essential Barbecue Dishes in America. The marinade of soy sauce, banana ketchup, and Jarritos lime soda made the slabs some of the most unique ribs in the country. Cramped and insanely hot during the summer due to the Southern Pride smoker, many customers would order their food and eat it at the bar around the corner, Lizard’s Liquid Lounge. Soler thanked the bar’s ownership in his note.
This post will be updated if Soler shares more information. Meanwhile, read his full statement via Facebook:
“We apologize for having been incommunicado! We've been busy with some new projects which we'll be announcing in the future. We love our space, our neighbors, our neighborhood, and the community that's supported us over the years. However, we want to continue to push that envelope, and we want to do it right. We want to be more than a take out joint, and actually have room for our guests to sit down and enjoy our offerings. That said, we've decided to shut down until we can do put the "more" into "smalls. smoke shack & more..."
We have so many people to thank for our success: our entire team that made it all happen day in and day out; our team's families for putting up with the long hours it takes to work in this business; Liz, the Lizard Lounge, and the awesome family there that's supported us and gave our guests a fun place to enjoy our food; the various food bloggers that gave us shout-outs; the food journalists that always found out about our new dishes for their readers and viewers to learn about; our social media followers that always kept us in the conversation; our regular customers that kept coming for the same thing every time, or to try whatever new item we had cooked up; the hip hop heads that would come in and recognize the superiority of our playlists. Together, all of you gave us the confidence to keep things rolling in a little shack in Irving Park, and challenged us keep trying new things. We're looking forward to doing it again very soon. So stay tuned!
Until then, don't ever forget, smalls loves you.”
UPDATE: The Tribune caught up with Soler who told the paper about his desire for a larger space. He wants to open a sit-down restaurant so diners don’t have to worry about reheating and can enjoy his food the way he intended it be prepared.