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Beard Award Winner Opens New Mediterranean Restaurant Kostali With Coastal Vibes

Carrie Nahabedian’s Kostali promises a coastal vacation in River North for cold Chicagoans

A close up of one of Kostali’s dishes.
Chef Carrie Nahabedian’s Kostali opens tonight with coastal Mediterranean fare.
Kostali/Neil Burger
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Coastal Mediterranean vibes from one of Chicago’s most lauded chefs arrive Tuesday night off downtown Chicago’s Mag Mile. Kostali, the new restaurant from James Beard Award winner Carrie Nahabedian (Brindille, Naha), opens tonight inside the Gwen hotel in River North, a news release announces.

If Chicagoans daydream on a cold day about the beach, few could blame them. Kostali may ease their pain, as the restaurant’s focus is coastal cuisine from a variety of countries in the Mediterranean region. A news release lists Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Tunisia, Lebanon, Israel, and Morocco as the restaurant’s influences.

Nahabedian, again flanked by cousin Michael Nahabedian, unbridles a menu tonight with seafood delights such as whole-roasted loup de mer, garganelli with clams, prawns, and feta cheese butter, plus a special hummus with lamb, radishes, and walnuts that blends the Nahabedians’s Armenian and Greek roots. Another Beard winner, Greg Wade of Publican Quality Bread, supplies loaves for Kostali’s bread service, which also includes tahini spiral rolls made on premises.

A roasted fish covered by greens.
Pan-roasted skate wing with beluga lentils, bacon, and frisee.
Kostali/Neil Burger
A large whole fish on the bone with colorful Mediterranean accoutrements on a white plate
Another seafood delight.
Kostali/Neil Burger

The Nahabedians are hospitality legends. Naha, their once-Michelin starred restaurant in River North, opened 19 years ago and closed in 2018. They’re not billing Kostali as a replacement for Naha, although the Gwen hotel and the restaurant’s websites call the new venture “Kostali by Naha.” The cousins, who have a devoted following and strong branding, continue to tease that they’ll eventually find a new space for their beloved restaurant. Their second restaurant, Brindille, opened in 2013 just up Clark Street from Naha.

Michael Nahabedian, a well-known sommelier, assembled Kostali’s wine list by region. He encourages customers to explore the wines available by the bottle — if one intrigues them, servers will pour them a glass. Lesser-known regions, like Croatia, are also represented. Peter Vestinos, a partner at Footman Hospitality (Sparrow, Little Victories, Bangers & Lace), consulted on the cocktails. A full drink list is not yet available.

A third family member, Tom Nahabedian, handled the look of the restaurant. His work on Brindille earned a Beard Award for design. A unique element is bronze-toned metal screens, described as inspired by satellite imagers and nautical maps. The former Circa space, which lasted under two years, seats 68. The restaurant sits on the fifth floor in the McGraw-Hill Building, which is attached to the Shops at North Bridge.

Hummus that combines the Nahabedians’s heritages.
Kostali/Neil Burger
A plate of tubular pasta with garden veggies and clams.
Pasta with briny clams and baby eggplant.
Kostali/Neil Burger

As 2019 winds down, Kostali could be the final big restaurant opening of the year. Winter doesn’t officially start until later this month, and Kostali was one of fall’s most anticipated debuts. Stay tuned for a photo tour through the restaurant. In the meantime, Kostali opens tonight.

Kostali, on the fifth floor of the Gwen hotel, 521 N. Rush Street, (312) 645-1500, reservations via OpenTable, open 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Monday through Saturday.

The Gwen, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Michigan Avenue Chicago

521 North Rush Street, , IL 60611 (312) 645-1500 Visit Website


521 North Rush Street, , IL 60611 (312) 645-1500 Visit Website