Rebecca Goldfarb has witnessed a change in North Center and Lincoln Square, and she’s been a part of the transformation. During the pandemic, Goldfarb saw business at her gourmet grocer, L&M Fine Foods surge as COVID-19 suspended indoor dining across the country. The store’s success served as a catalyst leading to her newest endeavor. This week, Goldfarb opened a new restaurant, Parkside, across the street from her store and along a prominent street corner on Lincoln and Montrose overlooking Welles Park.
“Honestly, I think I was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity across the street,” Goldfarb says. “So few people got to have a positive business experience during COVID, we were so lucky to be embraced by the neighborhood.”
With Irish pub Monty Gaels closing, Goldfarb brainstormed to what would fit well in the space. The area has plenty of bars with pub grub, but not many places Chicagoans would go out of their way to visit. Goldfarb wrestled with finding that right formula, and even considered an all-day cafe. But she found answers when she hired Justin Kaialoa as her chef: “There’s a wonderful playfulness and whimsy when it comes to his food,” Goldfarb says.
Goldfarb describes the restaurant as a “playful take on modern American fare.” Kaialoa worked at the Bristol in Bucktown and the Violet Hour in Wicker Park. He brings a love for high-quality ingredients, the kind of items that won’t appear on a regular sports bar’s menu. Kaialoa raves about Parkside’s cheese program. Though many look to Europe for sourcing, Kaialoa says American cheeses can compete: “And we live next to Wisconsin,” he adds.
Goldfarb entrusted Kaialoa to create a menu more upscale than initially thought. They use produce from Mick Klug and Nichols farms. The chef, being a North Carolina native, he has a taste for fancy mustards from an Asheville-area company called Lusty Monk and grains from Anson Mills.
Parkside isn’t fine dining full of plates with tweezer food, but Kaialoa says they’ll pay close attention to how the food looks before it leaves the kitchen. Monty Gaels’s old bar has been given a more modern facelift. Goodbye, Guinness: hello, 50-bottle wine list. L&M does have beer collaborations on draft from local breweries Bold Dog and Empirical. East and West coast oysters will also be available giving the neighborhood something they’d expect to find downtown. The cocktail program is also a focus, developed by Robert Shamblin (BLVD, Rose Mary). Goldfarb hopes to fill the “gaping hole in a lot of people’s hearts” left when nearby cocktail bar Tiny Lounge closed in 2018.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not neighborhood friendly. While Goldfarb says her child would be more than happy to snack on the pork coppa, the neighborhood will dictate if Parkside will be more family friendly or a special date night spot for parents who need a break from their youngsters.
A tea-smoked Cornish hen is a dish of note. It’s brined in sweet tea, smoked with applewood and then grilled on Japanese charcoal. It’s been a huge hit in R&D, Kaialoa says. For those who don’t eat meat, Kaialoa says he’s been obsessed with the idea of vegetarian charcuterie. Parkside will feature carrot pate that has the same consistency as chicken mousse.
Parkside will eventually offer weekend brunch, but as there’s an industry-wide labor shortage, service will have to wait. For now, Goldfarb excited about offering the neighborhood something a little bit more modern.
“[This is] one of the most loyal neighborhoods I’ve even seen when it comes to supporting any type of small business,” she says.