The critically acclaimed restaurant opened in April 2021 after multiple delays, as Engelhardt ushered patrons inside his quaintly rustic 1,600-square-foot dining room near the corner of Diversey and Sacramento avenues. Its decor included a smattering of European clocks, with one set to run backward: for the chef, it symbolized a timeless and lived-in atmosphere.
A Chicago restaurant veteran who spent time at Longman & Eagle, Chicago Firehouse, Kith & Kin, and Clever Rabbit, Engelhardt had originally planned to open En Passant (named for a special chess rule) in March 2020 — a now infamous timeframe most commonly associated with onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. The public health crisis forced the restaurant to push back its launch by 13 months.
En Passant evoked positive responses in local and national press with a stint on the Eater Chicago 38 and a November 2021 ranking among Esquire magazine’s 40 best new restaurants in America. The next month, however, a staff member tested positive for COVID and the restaurant temporarily closed to try and prevent the virus from spreading. It reopened in early January 2022 but hours over the following months became erratic with customers reporting reservations canceled at the last minute, sometimes on multiple occasions.
Passersby can now see a sign from the city declaring the restaurant’s license suspended. Engelhardt has not yet responded to a request for more information. However, former employees say the restaurant won’t reopen.
En Passant’s ethos was also reflected in the menu, which featured hearty plates that drew on international influences, with opening options such as chicken milanese with lemon and capers and gai lan with bacalao (dried and salted cod) and garlic. Early on, Engelhardt admitted to having a difficult time capturing En Passant’s culinary approach in just a few words. “I’ve been struggling with how to describe it to people, so come in and try it,” he said at the time.
The closure is a blow to Logan Square’s restaurant scene, and beyond the Esquire accolade, the restaurant gained the attention of national food press who considered it for other honors. There’s no word on a future tenant.