Chef Zach Engel moved to Chicago on somewhat of a whim. He wanted a city that could offer his family a good life, with interesting people, great neighborhoods, and a solid restaurant scene. He’d lived in many different cities, most recently in New Orleans working with acclaimed chef Alon Shaya. In 2017, he won the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef for his work at the Israeli restaurant Shaya. But even with these accolades under his belt, Engel remains humble as he opens Galit, an Israeli restaurant, with partner Andres Clavero (formerly of One Off Hospitality).
The Lincoln Park restaurant, named for his daughter Margalit, is a low-key neighborhood spot where friends can gather. Bright and airy with clean lines and pops of blue, it offers favorites with a twist. Take the hummus, for example. The version called Bubbe’s Brisket ($16) is made with sliced brisket, braised carrots, and tomatoes.
Some dishes like falafel ($12) remain classic, while others pull in unexpected flavors — like in a Persian-inspired wood-roasted asparagus dish with barberry and Persian lime vinaigrette, chilis, and pecans. Engel isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel: “We wanted to create something that is a classic version of an iconic dish from the Middle East with tweaks here and there, executed really well,” he says.
Israeli food relies a lot on Middle Eastern spices, so it was important for Engel to find the right spice purveyors. For the housemade z’aatar, he has a local farmer growing hyssop, the main spice found in the blend. He also works with an Israeli chef–turned–spice blender Lior Lev Sercarz at La Boîte out of NYC, and he recently discovered a local purveyor, the Reluctant Trading Experiment, which provides amazing Tellicherry peppercorns and other whole spices.
Cocktails designed by Olivia Duncan (Nico) use nuanced, herbaceous ingredients that complement the cuisine. Choices include The Flowering Fox ($13), made with vodka, hibiscus, mezcal, sumac, honey, and rose. Engel designed the wine menu himself, opting for biodynamic wines primarily from California and the Middle East. The choices come with funny quips like “When in Rome … I mean Israel.”
Indeed, a fun-loving, familial spirit shines through — and is at the very heart of everything Engel puts forth at this exciting arrival.
Galit, 2429 N. Lincoln, 773-360-8755; galitrestaurant.com
Photos by Sandy Noto