Chef Zach Engel accrued valuable experience cooking modern Israeli food under the guidance of talented chefs Alon Shaya in New Orleans and Michael Solomonov in Philadelphia. He’s taking a different path at Galit, his new restaurant that opens on Wednesday in Lincoln Park. Alongside friend and collaborator GM Andrés Clavero, Galit’s menu features the flavors and spices from Israel and across the Middle East.
Galit opens on Wednesday and it’s one of Chicago’s most anticipated openings of 2019, debuting across from Lincoln Hall at 2429 N. Lincoln Avenue. One of Engel’s goals is to show customers that items from the region can take various forms. For example, Galit’s Iraqi Kubbeh Halab, demonstrates how kibbeh takes on different shapes and spices. For Galit’s Iraqi take on the dish, Engel uses saffron and rice. It’s important to acknowledge these different forms, Engel said, this way no single person or culture could pretend that they invented a dish. Galit intends to celebrate the different iterations and cultures.
The falafel is another cross-cultural dish. Engel serves it with “funky mango.” It’s an Iraqi condiment of pickled, curried, and pureed green mango. It’s salty and sweet, and reminds Engel of Tel Aviv’s falafel stands.
The menu’s divided by hummus, salatin, and the “Over Coal” section that houses the larger plates. The items are meant to be shared. If customers want to limit their decisions, there’s also a family-style coursed-out option where the staff will pick the items. The food will be the same items as on the regular menu, but it’s designed to eliminate some of the stress that comes with dining with larger groups.
An eight-foot grill was designed by Engel and fabricated by a Pilsen company, Wayward Machine. Galit’s staff will grill a bavette steak on the coals, and Engel admitted that this was a kind of concession to the steak and potatoes culture that courses through Chicago and the Midwest: “It’s undeniable,” Engel said.
The steak’s seasoned overnight in a shislik-style marinade. It’s served with schmaltz potatoes and spring onions. The grill also a features a smoke dome that’s inspired by barbecue. They’ve been experimenting smoking items like chicken salad. One item that won’t be smoked is the hummus. While Engel is open to mixing in different toppings, anything that would change the basic composition is off limits. He’s a hummus purist like that.
The wine list features bio-dynamical varietals from Sonoma, the Middle East, and “everywhere else.” There’s not a lot of French or Italian wines, and Engel said he encountered some challenges with distributors in bringing the Middle East wines he liked to Chicago. They’ll also have eight signature cocktails and two spirit-free drinks. The beer list is all canned or bottled and mostly from the Midwest. They’re still working on desserts, but they’ll serve a small bite that’s based on Krembo, an Israeli candy.
Engel has quickly made friends in Chicago, and Clavero already has a network having worked for Nico Osteria, One Off Hospitality Group’s former Gold Coast restaurant. He continues to build relationships with Midwestern farmers. He intended to open in February and had a menu item with pumpkin; so much for that in April. As he unveils his restaurant on Wednesday he wants to make staff is comfortable working with ingredients that may not be accustomed to cooking with (like tahini and harissa) as he helps build an environment where everyone’s comfortable. They’ll adjust to dietary restrictions whenever possible.
“I don’t want people to feel unwelcome,” he said.
Galit opens on Wednesday in Lincoln Park. Take a look at the menu below.