A handwritten brown paper sign that appeared on the door at Sephardic Sisters, a casual vegan cafe that channeled Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewish flavors in Uptown, sparked a flurry of chatter late last week within the vegan community as word spread that the replacement for vegan staple Kal’ish was closed after four months.
“The Sisters is closed,” the sign reads at 1313 W. Wilson Avenue. “We will be opening something new and different soon. We’re sorry.”
While co-owner Gina Kalish is vegan, her husband and business partner Andy Kalish is not, so the change in circumstances has created an opportunity for him to open a radically different restaurant — one that serves meat in addition to vegan dishes. A “culinary love letter” to his late mother, Floreen, the restaurant’s namesake, will focus on roast chicken. “In our lives together, chicken has run through it,” he says. “This is my truth. I want to do something I love and brings me joy.”
Floreen’s Chicken & Roost will open after Tuesday, July 4 in a nearby space at 1303 W. Wilson Avenue where the couple previously operated vegan Mexican pop-up LA/Mex and Longacre pizzeria. There, patrons will find a menu of butter-roasted chicken by the quarter or half, wings, and fried chicken sandwiches alongside rib tips, cheeseburgers, and Detroit-style pizzas. Vegans, however, won’t be left entirely by the wayside as all pizzas will be available sans meat and dairy.
This is the latest change for the space where the Kalishes operated Kal’ish for six years before Sephardic Sisters opened in February. The brainchild of Gina Kalish, it was designed as a fresh, raw counterpoint to Sam & Gertie’s, their neighboring vegan Ashkenazi-style deli that’s only open on Saturdays and Sundays. Though business at Sephardic Sisters was steady over its tenure, a combination of factors — namely, a stagnant “growth trajectory” and Gina Kalish’s decision to retire from the restaurant industry to pursue a new passion for spiritual counseling — led to the closure, says Andy Kalish.
While he understands the many environmental and ethical arguments for a vegan diet, Andy Kalish says he has never pretended to be anything other than an omnivore. Over time, he’s watched other Chicago spots, including pizza hits Dimo’s and Paulie Gee’s, find success with menus that include vegan items alongside dishes with meat. He knows that some of his vegan customers may feel let down by the transition, but says he needs to think about his business too.
“I am responsible for the financial well-being of my companies and a great many of my employees, so I have to act in their best interest,” he says. “I wish that I could thrive on being purely vegan but it does not seem possible anymore. My hunch is that a great many of our [vegan] customers will come to Floreen’s for the pizza and some of the things we used to make at Kal’ish and they’ll appreciate the lengths to which we’ve gone to not forget them.”
Floreen’s Chicken & Roost, 1303 W. Wilson Avenue, planned to open in early July.