One of Chicago’s most critically acclaimed fine dining pop-ups has a new home after years of hosting underground dinners. Chef Trevor Teich (Acadia, L2O, NoMi, Sixteen) is bringing Claudia — a pop-up series that first emerged seven years ago — to Bucktown. Teich, a suburban Chicago native, focuses on a tasting menu format, and hopes to open this summer. The downstairs features a bar and Teich is developing a separate bar menu with more casual eats — there’s also plans to eventually add a roof terrace with patio seating.
Teich’s philosophy is that he’s trying to tell a story through food that’s both delicious and interactive. Bucktown is the culmination of years of effort of working in temporary spaces and searching for the ideal real estate deal. He even turned to Kickstarter to crowdsource funds. The journey also involved relocating to Las Vegas where he worked at the Mandarin Oriental. But homesick for the Midwest, he returned and restarted Claudia — named after his mother who just turned 75. Teich did find a West Loop space in late 2019, but the building didn’t provide the ideal surroundings. The pandemic ended that arrangement sending Teich to once again search fo a new home.
He believes he’s finally found a permanent residence in Bucktown, inside the rickety building that was once home to Michelin-starred Takashi: “We’re not going to do an extravagant buildout, but we’re going to put our stamp on it and it’s going to feel like Trevor Teich’s Claudia,” he says.
Besides Takashi Yagihashi, Stephanie Izard got her break inside the same property. Teich acknowledged that past as well as the building’s most recent tenant, Stone Flower — a restaurant that operated under a cloud of controversy before quietly closing last year. Teich wants to offer the space a fresh start, to return it to the positive energies of its previous lives. He stresses Claudia has zero connection with the most recent restaurant.
“It reminds me of Bellemore,” says Teich, in talking about the situation.
Bellemore refers to the West Loop restaurant that replaced Embeya, a Vietnamese restaurant whose owners bilked its chef out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Embeya’s owner eventually pled guilty to wire fraud in that case.
Claudia’s meals normally consist of 10 courses highlighted by Teich’s spin on a bento box filled with assorted items all with different textures. The crowd favorite is a foie-gras torchon wrapped in tuna. Former Tribune critic Phil Vettel took a liking to Teich and awarded the restaurant two stars. Vettel broke the news of the new location before he left the paper.
The tasting menu will be served on the second-floor dining room. The chef’s confident in his food, but knows Michelin inspectors take note of decor when grading the experience. That type of recognition can push a restaurant’s success and Teich is confident he finally has the elegant stage to properly present and execute his vision.
Alex Reed will serve as sommelier and general manager. He worked at Mordecai in Wrigleyville. He’ll assemble two wine pairings for the menu and offer wines by the glass. Both Teich and Reed will collaborate on modern takes on classic cocktails for the downstairs bar. During his time in Acadia in South Loop, Teich helped create the popular burger served at the bar. The bar menu will also serve a burger, as well as oysters and crudités.
Teich admits to being “completely stupefied and terrified” in April 2020, as COVID-19 began ravaging the restaurant industry. He didn’t know what Claudia’s future would bring. January 2020 and February 2020 had already seen a dip in reservations before Illinois closed all restaurants and bars in March 2020.
The start of 2021 has brought hope, and Teich feels fine dining will return, even in a fluttering economy. Customers routinely spend hundreds of dollars at Gibsons and other steakhouses. At $185, Claudia is a unique experience that will cost less than going out for a dry-aged chop.
“People have been clamoring to eat out...maybe not in droves, but we’ll get back to things,” Teich says. “We’ll just have to collectively follow the safety guidelines and respect each other.”
Claudia, 1952 N. Damen Avenue, scheduled for a summer opening.