Iliana Regan says she can’t be at two places at once — and that could seemingly present a challenge with the planned August 4 reopening of her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth. The acclaimed chef plans to remain in Michigan, where she and her wife run the Milkweed Inn, their summer compound in the Mitten State’s Upper Peninsula. But Regan says it’s not a problem at all: The restaurant has been left in the capable hands of her chef de cuisine and general manager. “Elizabeth will be fine,” Regan tells Eater Chicago. “I have zero worries.”
Elizabeth has been serving carryout since March 2020, but last month the Lincoln Square restaurant began taking reservations in anticipation of welcoming customers back inside the dining room in August. That’s a month after Mayor Lori Lightfoot projects the city’s restaurants will revert to full capacity.
Regan and wife Anna Hamlin opened the Milkweed two years ago. Regan is confident that Elizabeth won’t miss a beat with chef de cuisine Ian Jones (Band of Bohemia, NoMI, Bavette’s) running the kitchen and menu. Jones previously worked with Regan at Kitsune and is handling the day-to-day operations. The restaurant’s newsletter proudly touts his addition: “Ian will be running things in the kitchen, including writing the menus.” Jones is working alongside a fellow Kitsune holdover, general manager Tim Lacey. Lacey will be doing everything from guest relations to ensuring all of the restaurant’s licenses are up to date: “They know my food, hospitality, and each other,” Regan says of Lacey and Jones.
Lacey says they’ve been patiently waiting to see when the government will ease capacity restrictions. Elizabeth is a small restaurant, he says, and at 50 percent capacity, that sets the dining room limit at 14 customers. “We needed to start at some point. I was hoping to do it sooner than August,” he says. “We’re waiting for the vaccine to be a little bit more prevalent.”
Once they reopen the dining room, Elizabeth’s takeout operation will cease. Lacey says they don’t have enough room in the kitchen to prepare carryout and to serve dining room guests.
Elizabeth opened in 2012, as Regan was making a name for herself with underground dinners that showcased a style of cooking that relied heavily on foraged ingredients — something unique to Chicago’s urban landscape. It appeared on the Michelin Star list for the first time in 2013 and has remained a fixture ever since. Before the pandemic, Regan chatted with the New York Times and pondered the future of her restaurant. She worried about hanging on for too long, as she has other priorities in life, including family and her writing. Without laying out a specific timeline or plan, she floated the possibility of closing the restaurant in 2022.