Many Andersonville residents have eyed the empty space at 5212 N. Clark Street, the former location of gourmet wine and cheese market Pastoral and neighboring sister restaurant Appellation, wondering what’s next for the prominent location on Andersonville’s main artery. The answer is Gadabout, a family-owned restaurant and bar that plays on themes of world travel and street food, from co-owners James Bateman (Hopleaf, Bourbon on Division), Meg Pedersen (Yusho, Hopleaf), and Rolf Pedersen (Pacific Standard Time, Boka, Sixteen, Girl & the Goat). Gadabout is now open on North Clark Street.
“Global” menus aren’t unusual in Chicago, but Bateman hopes that the restaurant’s approach to street food, social good, and sustainability will set it apart. “In this political landscape, people need to feel more welcome and for there to be less division among cultures,” he said, pointing to inclusive pronoun policies for staff and hourly wages plus pooled tips for front and back-of-house workers.
“We know full well that every single person inside this place contributes to every single dinner service,” said Bateman. “It’s important for everybody to share in the profits from them putting out good work.”
So-called street food can mean a lot of things, so Rolf Pedersen set to work building a menu that he feels is cohesive. A first-generation American born of a Thai mother and Norwegian father who both emigrated to the United States, he describes a good deal of the menu as “pure imagination” rather than an attempt to recreate “authentic” street food from a specific country or region. “Even though it is slightly elevated street food, we are aware that it, by definition, has very humble beginnings based off of scarcity and necessity,” said Pedersen. “We wanted a menu that would pay tribute to that — no gold dust or foie gras on a stick.”
The menu sports a sizable selection of salads and vegetable dishes, such as chickpea fritters (tomato, za’atar-whipped feta, coriander, chimichurri, sunflower shoots) and sweet corn and poblano empanadas (gruyere, aji verde, grilled peach and blueberry salsa, pickled cherry bomb peppers, cotija). Skewers — an essential street food vehicle — are also available featuring chicken (scallion, smoked tare glaze, tajin-lime) and beef heart (doenjang-lingonberry glaze, shiso, lingonberry mustard).
Seafood selections include a red shrimp pancake (cabbage, eel sauce, bonito, scallion, red pickled ginger, furikake, spicy mayo) and pan-roasted monkfish with a Chicago twist that may sound familiar — it comes with panzanella, sport pepper romesco, grain mustard vinaigrette, celery salt, and poppyseeds. Meat dishes are also available, such as pork belly kimchi stew (silken tofu, littleneck clams, bok choy) and Mongolian beef tongue (sweet onions, broccolini, pickled daikon, white rice, bibb lettuce wraps).
Meg Pedersen, who met Bateman while working at popular Andersonville restaurant and bar Hopleaf, makes Gadabout’s desserts. “I really like favor profiles that remind you of a place you’ve been, somewhere you traveled or where you grew up,” she said. She eschews “cloyingly sweet” pastries in favor of unexpected ingredients, namely corn for the menu’s elote tart (corn custard, almond masa crust, brown sugar crema, dehydrated sweet corn, chili and black lime meringue, micro cilantro). Her mini eclairs, designed to evoke the flavors of South Asia, are filled with tamarind curd and covered with coconut curry cinnamon glaze, toasted pistachios, and crystalized ginger.
Though diners have become increasingly interested in where their food comes from, they don’t necessarily apply the same critical eye to drinks, Bateman said. Gadabout’s bar features a number of small-batch spirits in an effort to show customers that a big-name liquor brand doesn’t necessarily lead to a better product. He’s amassed a collection of aquavits, mezcals, shochus, and more that he believes are rarely seen under the same roof. Cocktails include “the nomad” (Journeyman Not A King rye, lemon juice, demerara syrup, Ruebas beer) and “peach ring wiz” (Satsuma Otome schochu, Dole peach cocktail, Leninade, Gumballhead).
He also wants to feature local and Midwestern breweries such as Minnesota-based smoked beer brewery Hammer Heart and Chicago’s eccentric Off Color Brewing. Bateman also plans to offer mocktails made with juices that may be unfamiliar to locals.
Bateman and the Pedersens said they were happy with the layout left by Pastoral and Appellation — a spacious dining room with a central U-shaped wooden bar with room for lounge seating — and added a private dining room. The entire space is about 3,200 square feet and, between the dining room and private space, seats 120. An additional 22 seats line the bar, and owners plan to add patio dining next summer. They hope that the natural wood and pops of color inside the space will be both exciting and inviting to diners.
Gadabout is now open in Andersonville. The Chicago Tribune first reported this story.
Gadabout, 5212 N. Clark Street, Open 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Monday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday; 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.