Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim, fresh off winning the James Beard award for Best Chef: Great Lakes for their work at Parachute — the couple’s Michelin-starred Korean restaurant in Avondale — plan to open their second restaurant in July. After teasing their plans last year, Kim and Clark now reveal that Wherewithall will be an all-day restaurant serving breakfast pastries, a la carte lunch, and a four-course prix fixe dinner. The restaurant will include a bar with snacks that pair well with wine, a courtyard, and a private dining room.
Wherewithall, 3472 N. Elston Avenue, is a few doors down from Parachute. That will allow the two to work at both restaurants. Clark and Kim, who last month welcomed their third child, were actually house hunting when their real estate agent found them the restaurant space. They’ve put off buying a house as they prep for Wherewithall’s opening.
“Somehow it turned from buying a house into a buying a new restaurant,” Clark said.
Kim added: “For the same price you could open up a restaurant!”
The couple had been contemplating opening another restaurant for the last two years, but they couldn’t find the perfect space. Parachute opened five years ago. Clark described that opening as a necessity if both parents wanted to work as chefs. He recalled applying to jobs driving trucks with UPS and FedEx before the plan for Parachute crystalized. The husband-and-wife team are humble. Kim said they were “pleasantly surprised” that Parachute, their neighborhood Korean-American restaurant, became a hit.
Wherewithall will share similarities with Parachute in terms of cost and neighborhood vibe. The couple said guests can visit in a T-shirt and sandals, or dress up to celebrate a special event. Customers will taste similar flavors, but neither Kim or Clark want to pigeonhole their new restaurant. The two said they agonized on how to describe the restaurant to the public. It may sound ambiguous, but they’re calling Wherewithall contemporary American with a menu that reflects Chicago’s evolving diversity.
Clark is very mindful that “not everyone can afford to eat at Parachute.” But with Wherewithall, they want to give Avondale something else it can be proud of and add “another chapter to their story” along Elston. They challenged perceptions of what Korean food could be with Parachute, and now it’s time to continue to be ambitious and try something new.
Most of Parachute’s menu is sharable. That means items like soup or consommé don’t appear on the menu. Clark doesn’t see how soup can be an item that leaves a positive impression with a table if its split four ways and diners are only getting two or three spoonfuls. Wherewithall will give the chefs a chance to cook delicate items which are hard to split.
Opening a second restaurant also gives long-time Parachute workers a chance for promotions with more jobs available at the new restaurant. Cooks can become sous chefs, for example. Avondale has also seen a boom in new construction.
“We’re just at a position where we’re ready to grow as a family, for our employees, for our community, for Avondale,” she said. “It’s just the right time.”
The space will have more of a vivacious drinking scene with room for about 12 at the bar. Most of the wine will be American. The restaurant holds 50 seats total. The building, which has been around for about a century, had been boarded up for years. Its history includes being several taverns, with a basement that was home to an illegal gambling ring. They brought on Charles Vinz to design the space. He’s worked on Cellar Door Provisions in Logan Square and Maria’s Packaged Good and Community Bar in Bridgeport. Vinz is also working on another of this year’s most anticipated restaurants, Superkhana International in Logan Square.
Kim and Clark aren’t leaving Parachute behind, but they talked about opening Wherewithall as a means to avoid stagnation. Opening a second restaurant also doesn’t mean that they’re looking to start a restaurant group. Despite Parachute’s success, the restaurant still has a DIY vibe. It took them more than a year to close on the deal for the space. They applied for an SBA loan.
“I don’t think we need to be a restaurant empire,” Kim said.
The spirit of community led to the restaurant’s name. Clark and Kim added an extra “l” to “wherewithal” as a subtle nod to recognize all the people in their lives that have made Parachute one of Chicago’s essential restaurants. Expect more updates on their new spot next month.