Parachute, the Beloved Korean American Mom-and-Pop, Is Finally Back After a Year of Renovations

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Chicago

A man and a woman wearing aprons and diner-style paper hats stand in the middle of a dining room.
Chefs and owners Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim are eager to get back to work at Parachute.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

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Fans of the celebrated Avondale restaurant should rejoice, even without their beloved bing bread

by Aimee Levitt

Photography by Barry Brecheisen

Parachute, the critically praised and publicly adored Korean restaurant from the wife-and-husband team of Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark, reopens its dining room tomorrow, May 24, for the first time since it closed for the pandemic in March 2020. The restaurant was open for takeout, but last year Kim and Clark decided to close altogether for some much-needed renovations.

When Parachute first opened in 2014, Kim and Clark were working with a $50,000 budget. This time around, Clark told Eater earlier this month, they’ve bought the building (with the help from a Small Business Administration loan) and they have the time and money (from savings they’d originally intended for another project) to do everything properly: making sure the floors are level, mending cracks in the walls, and installing a new sound system and wheelchair ramp for the front door. But they’ve done their best to maintain the comfortable feel of the original space, down to the neon sign over the front door, which had to be replaced after it was accidentally thrown away during the renovations.

The menu is also getting an overhaul. Originally, Kim and Clark described it as “Korean food with French technique.” Since then, Chicagoans have become more familiar with Korean cuisine, and Kim has become more confident that Korean food — especially Korean food prepared by herself and Clark — can stand on its own. Additionally, specialty ingredients like sesame seeds from the Seoul-based manufacturer Queens Bucket have become more accessible.

But other adjustments needed to be made. Like many restaurant owners, Clark and Kim are facing both inflation in the cost of ingredients and a labor shortage. So the menu has been streamlined in order to compensate. Among the losses is the much-beloved bing bread, stuffed with potatoes, bacon, cheese, and scallions: although it was popular, it was extremely time-consuming to make. The chefs hope customers will fall as much in love with other items on the menu. (And for those who just can’t live without bing bread, Kim shared the recipe with Eater in 2020.)

During the Parachute hiatus, Kim and Clark kept busy with other projects, notably their second restaurant, Wherewithal, which is nearby, and with raising their three children. Kim also founded the Abundance Setting, a nonprofit that provides childcare for parents who have jobs outside the traditional 9 to 5 and Clark contributed to efforts to raise money to feed Ukrainian refugees.

A woman sits on a stool in front of a countertop covered with papers and a laptop, speaking to a man in an orange cap standing across from her.
Kim discusses the menu with an employee.

Now, however, they are excited to return to Parachute. They hope that the Michelin star the restaurant lost during its hiatus will be restored. But more important, says Kim, is that she remains true to her identity as a Korean American.

“It’s time to take risks,” she told Eater earlier this month. “I think as a Korean American I’m more confident in myself to be more authentic to myself.”

Parachute, 3500 N. Elston, Open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, reservations via OpenTable.

Parachute

3472 North Elston Avenue, , IL 60618 (872) 204-7138 Visit Website

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