Chicago’s Former Michelin-Starred Korean Restaurant Will Go Casual and Rebrand

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Chicago diners, including those in the Korean community all across the U.S., mourned last month’s closure of Parachute, the end of a 10-year run. But this summer, Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark will try again to inject new energy into the Avondale space by rebranding and introducing a casual restaurant that doesn’t require reservations in hopes it will draw more customers in the rapidly changing neighborhood.

“You can’t open another door before you close one door,” Kim said in March, the day after she made the Parachute closure announcement. “I see it as a rebirth. Now, everyone knows the story about the Phoenix — I actually have one tattooed on my arm — but it’s about like, you know, everything has a cycle. You know, everything has a season.”

For a couple who has a child named Bowie, it’s not surprising that music will play a big role in the revered restaurant’s replacement, called Parachute Hi-Fi. Some of the music will come from the couple’s record collection — they’re even dusting off their CDs. They’ll convert the formerly Michelin-starred dining room allowing the bar — and the Korean spirit sool — to play a more prominent role. A news release suggests cocktails may use eccentric ingredients like parmesan and octopus.

In March, Kim said they were “ready to have fun with the Parachute umbrella,” Kim talked about how the pandemic has impacted customer habits and that’s forced restaurants to adapt.

“I think that this year is probably a big year for a lot of restaurants to decide, you know, do you stay the same path that you were 10 years ago or is it time for a renewal — a new idea, a new thing?” Kim says.

The menu will contain Korean flavors, but will also diverge. They’ll pay tribute to the Pizza Puff, a Chicago invention. But perhaps they’ll use a different term; Italco recently threatened Daisies with a cease and desist letter via a message to the Logan Square restaurant’s Instagram account. Daisies decided to rebrand its pastry as a calzone to avoid a potential conflict with the Pizza Puff police. Beyond Parachute Hi-Fi’s pizza pastry — which will be filled with pepperoni and kimchi — other sample dishes include a fish filet sandwich with uni-tartar sauce, king oyster mushroom skewers, and raw fish and oysters.

Hi-Fi isn’t the first time Clark and Kim have diverged from Parachute’s original formula. After an extended two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Parachute reopened in spring 2022 with a new menu and light renovations. At the time, Kim said she wanted to concentrate on a more Korean menu rather than Korean American. Before that, COVID precautions drove Kim and Clark to offer takeout and delivery with the state shutting down indoor dining. In May 2021, they unveiled two special pizzas benefitting Asians Americans Advancing Justice. This pie featured a crab Rangoon crust and a shrimp alfredo sauce. Another was topped with bulgogi, scallions, and provolone. While, as the Trib’s Louisa Kung Liu Chu reports, the pizzas aren’t likely to return, they provide a window to what the rebranded restaurant could offer.

Before Parachute opened there was pressure for Kim and Clark. They needed to not only prove that the restaurant could be a financial success, but that it would hold community and cultural value, Kim said. That scenario might not be that different from all first-time restaurant owners, but putting Korean food on a pedestal made what Kim and Clark faced unique. Even with success, challenges remain, but Kim and Clark have won the approval of their peers. Several Korean and Korean American chefs spoke to Eater about Parachute’s importance. Bixi Beer’s Bo Fowler, who last year closed Owen and Engine in Logan Square, called Kim brave for being “unapologetically Korean and chef driven, with no compromises made.”

“She wasn’t trying to appeal to everyone,” Fowler says of Kim. “Parachute was not only delicious, but so inspiring.”

Adalina chef Soo Ahn, who appears on Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen, says he appreciated Clark and Kim’s unique spins on Korean cuisine: “Their bing bread was something I would dream about at night.”

Parachute dropped the bing bread in 2022, calling it an economic decision as they relaunched the restaurant with more of traditional Korean lean. The news release teases that the beloved item, which was featured in a recipe zine written by former Tribune food writer and cookbook author Kevin Pang, “will be back in limited capacity.” Food will cost less compared to Parachute’s original iteration, but Chu reports they haven’t figured out how much they’ll charge for bing bread. Labor costs are another factor weighing on restaurant owners. At Parachute Hi-Fi, they’re “blurring the lines between chef, server, and bartender.” The bar service model isn’t as costly as a full-service restaurant to operators.

There’s still a desire to find a new space for the original Parachute in a larger location closer to downtown. Operating a boutique-sized neighborhood restaurant isn’t easy, Kim said. While there’s nothing new to share about what a new location, Kim feels confident that Parachute could fare better in a scenario where downtown tourists wouldn’t have to stray too far from their hotels.

The couple also refreshed their other restaurant last year, transforming their every-day accessible gourmet restaurant Wherewithall into Anelya, a restaurant that draws from Clark’s Ukrainian roots. They hope to open the new Parachute Hi-Fi this summer.

Parachute Hi-Fi, 3500 N. Elston Avenue, planned for a summer opening.


3500 North Elston Avenue, , IL 60618 (872) 204-7138 Visit Website

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