The low-key mfk. brings the sea straight to Chicago.As famed American food writer M.F.K. Fisher once said, “First we eat, then we do everything else.” It’s the mantra that — owners of the new Lakeview restaurant mfk., named for the late writer — have adopted both in life and work. “M.F.K. Fisher was the one author we both had books from when we got married,” Zernich Worsham says. “We both really respect her work and Scott’s been wanting to name a place after her for awhile.”
The resulting 700-square-foot, 30-seat, subterranean spot focuses on simply prepared coastal cuisine. The menu, composed primarily of seafood and vegetables, is broken out into four categories: “little bites” like boquerones served on a grilled baguette with piquillo peppers and fennel ($10); “from the soil” featuring farmers’ market selections such as seared corn with cojita cheese and smoked paprika ($9); grilled seafood “from the plancha” and “hope you’re hungry,” full of large, shareable entrees. “We wanted this to be the type of neighborhood place you’d see [in] Europe,” says Worsham. “A place you could just pop into that was casual and affordable with great food.”
Here’s what else you can expect at mfk.:
The team: The Worshams are veterans of the restaurant industry: Scott has helped launch restaurants across the country, including Art Smith’s Art and Soul in D.C. and Southern Art and Bourbon Bar in Atlanta, and created the first on-tap locavore wine system at LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto. Sari, who currently serves as the executive director and partner of the Art Smith Company, spent years with the Charlie Trotter organization, authoring 13 of his cookbooks and serving as the culinary producer on his PBS series. Executive chef Nick Lacasse most recently served as executive chef of The Drawing Room; Beverage Director (and sommelier) Mary Rose Braun spent many years under Lynn House at Blackbird and Avec.
Must-try dish: Similar to a bouillabaisse, the shareable cataplana’s tomato-based broth is stocked with meaty pieces of cobia collar, shrimp and clams and served with grilled bread to sop up the savory soup ($38). Creating the dish was a painstaking process: “The team is very collaborative in menu planning,” says Worsham. “There was something not right about the cataplana and we decided it needed more collar, which is the dark meat — the most delicious part of the fish.”
Fresh take: mfk. doesn’t have a freezer — partly because of space and partly because of the team’s philosophy on fresh food — so ingredients are delivered regularly or sought out at places like the Green City Market. The menu rotates based on seasonality, availability and the freshest choices they can offer — especially in the “from the soil” focused portion of the menu.
By the sea: The menu’s coastal vibe is reflected in the interior, which is designed to “[feel like] summertime, all the time,” says Zernich Worsham. Think white walls and chairs, seaside landscapes by local artist (and high school friend) John Santoro, plus fresh flowers and fruit tucked throughout the space. The wine list is equally ocean-inspired, with whites, rosés and a few reds sourced from seaside locations.
432 W. Diversey, (773) 857-2540; Mfkrestaurant.com