Elizabeth, where Iliana Regan’s “new gatherer cuisine” often mixed her love of the woods with unexpected forays into pop culture, will close in December after a decade in Lincoln Square. Owner Tim Lacey says he’ll replace Elizabeth with a new tasting-menu restaurant, Atelier, with a new chef next year. Lacey, who’s been running Elizabeth since 2020, is interviewing candidates to replace executive chef Ian Jones.
Back in January 2020, before “coronavirus” had entered the daily lexicon, Regan estimated that Elizabeth would serve its final meal in 2021 or 2022. The year prior, Regan’s first book, Burn the Place began earning acclaim as a New York Times bestseller and longlisted for a National Book Award. As the pandemic arrived with the suspension of indoor dining, Regan and wife Anna Hamlin found shelter at Milkweed Inn, their bed and breakfast in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Regan quietly handed off the restaurant to Lacey, a friend dating back to when they worked at Trio.
Regan and Lacey didn’t announce the shift in ownership until last year, with Lacey saying they were too focused on keeping the business alive during the pivot to takeout. Lacey ran another of Regan’s restaurants, Kitsune, a Japanese-style spot in North Center, until it closed in summer 2019. Regan trusted Lacey and chef Jones (Sepia, Band of Bohemia) to maintain her standard. Michelin inspectors agreed when they awarded Elizabeth a star earlier this year.
Elizabeth opened in 2012 after Regan threw pop-up dinners at an apartment along Ashland Avenue. The apartment tested Regan’s concept, which included serving vegetation foraged in the woods, local bear, and other ingredients no restaurant in Chicago dared serve. This type of midwestern cooking caught the attention of national critics who helped make a modest Lincoln Square space into a dining destination for culinary tourists and for, well, fans of Game of Thrones or nostalgic Nintendo games. Regan began serving the occasional themed meal, taking inspiration from a variety of media, including video games and Wes Anderson movies.
Jones’s departure — Lacey tells Eater that it’s too early to disclose where the chef is going — provides the restaurant with an opportunity to reset. Lacey says they’ll make a few minor cosmetic changes to the interior. The name’s a callback to Lacey’s aforementioned time at Trio Atelier where he worked as a bartender; over its lifetime, successful chefs including Regan, Grant Achatz of Alinea, and Shawn McClain of Spring worked at the Evanston restaurant. Lacey went on to develop drink programs at McClain’s restaurants including Green Zebra in West Town, Spring in Wicker Park, and Custom House in South Loop.
Regan and Hamlin have returned to Chicago for the winter as Regan prepares to travel next year in support of her new book, Fieldwork: A Forager’s Memoir, which will release on January 24.
Via email, Regan writes that her friend has the “right idea,” and that “whatever he does there will be fantastic.“
“I’m happy for Tim,” Regan writes. “It’s been his restaurant for two-plus years and I know he kept the name at first and I was good with that and I’m also happy he’s decided to make it feel more his own. Other than the space having once been occupied by me, it’s not been my restaurant for over two years. And while it was still called Elizabeth, my sister, the namesake for it, left when I left.”
Elizabeth’s final night of service is Thursday, December 22.