From server to owner, a Wicker Park fix­ture re­opens with a new look

Chicago Sun-Times - - TASTE - BY ASHOK SELVAM

The pan­demic has forced all res­tau­rant work­ers into un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory. Over at Hash, a Wicker Park break­fast fa­vorite — a ca­sual res­tau­rant known for a va­ri­ety of hashes — a for­mer server was pre­sented a chance at own­er­ship. Ear­lier this month, the res­tau­rant re­opened with a new look and menu that hopes to keep the res­tau­rant’s same friend­li­ness while adding items made with ingredient­s from lo­cal pur­vey­ors.

Emily McKern joined Hash Chicago in Novem­ber. The res­tau­rant opened seven years ago, es­tab­lish­ing it­self as an af­ford­able break­fast and brunch op­tion that drew fam­i­lies and hip­sters alike. It uti­lized counter ser­vice, a quin­tes­sen­tial “turn and burn” joint, McKern says. The menu of­fered plenty for ve­g­ans, fam­i­lies and more.

But novel coro­n­avirus hit and the res­tau­rant closed its din­ing room. Oper­at­ing owner Mag­gie Mc­Coy ex­pressed de­sire to sell, and real es­tate de­vel­oper Mark Suther­land asked McKern if she was in­ter­ested in tak­ing over. McKern con­sulted with her part­ner, Mitch Buller, and they pulled the trig­ger. It was hard to ex­plain to friends and fam­ily that they signed the con­tract on April Fools’ Day.

“It’s in­sane, it’s ev­ery­thing I ever wanted from work­ing in hos­pi­tal­ity over the last 10 years,” McKern says.

They’re not ready to open for dine in, but car­ry­out de­buted on July 1. There is a pa­tio, but McKern has elected to keep that closed; not all cus­tomers are re­spect­ful of safety guide­lines. McKern and her crew re­mod­eled the space, tak­ing out the counter. McKern says she wanted to add a lit­tle bit more hos­pi­tal­ity to the space. She added ser­vice sta­tions, painted the walls and adorned them with new art while in­stalling new light fix­tures.

Seven of Hash’s en­trees re­main, but the rest of the menu is new. McKern wants to high­light bet­ter ingredient­s — they’ll use gen­uine Ver­mont maple syrup. While that’s an ex­cep­tion, McKern is sourc­ing lo­cally. She’s friends with the folks be­hind Sooth­sayer Hot Sauce (they have a va­ri­ety called “Malört Face”). Sooth­sayer is mak­ing a spe­cial con­coc­tion for the res­tau­rant called “Hashes to Hashes.” The res­tau­rant will con­tinue as BYO.

Restau­rants like Hash are im­por­tant to the com­mu­ni­ties they serve. While so­cial dis­tanc­ing is a bar­rier, McKern wants to pro­vide a place for safe in­ter­ac­tions that can put a smile on cus­tomers’ faces. She also wants to part­ner with com­mu­nity groups, es­pe­cially im­por­tant to her as the Ge­orge Floyd protests brought aware­ness to sev­eral is­sues sur­round­ing equal­ity. McKern, who worked for Royal Gro­cer Co. — also in Wicker Park — wants to keep Hash’s mo­men­tum go­ing. As a ca­reer server, she’s thank­ful that her dream of run­ning a res­tau­rant “fell into her lap.”

“The con­cept of this place is what brought peo­ple back,” McKern says. “It’s su­per no frills, it’s sim­plic­ity — the com­fort of the place means ev­ery­thing to the crowd that comes here.”

Hash, 1357 N. Western Av­enue, open for take­out and de­liv­ery from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wed­nes­day through Sun­day in July.

Orig­i­nally pub­lished on chicago.eater.com.

PAT NABONG/SUN-TIMES

Mark Jaeschke (left), and Emily McKern, the owner and gen­eral man­ager of Hash in Wicker Park, make break­fast bur­ri­tos for pro­test­ers on a re­cent Satur­day af­ter­noon.

HASH

This cus­tom omelette at Hash fea­tures ba­con jam, fried brus­sels, swiss, and caramelize­d onions, topped with feta crum­bles.

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