WICKER PARK — "Finally" was the word of the weekend for the owner of a new Asian restaurant.
"Everyone kept coming up to me and saying, 'Yay, finally!" said Tom Wang, 40, who, after a year's worth of anticipation and paper-covered windows, met his goal of opening Mak Restaurant at 1924 W. Division St. just in time for the Do-Division Street Fest Friday.
A partner in Three-Headed Productions, which operates Division Street nightclub Evil Olive and the recently-closed Cans Bar & Canteen, Tom Wang said that he's been "entrenched" in Division Street for 15 years but mainly from the bar and not restaurant business.
All along, though, Tom Wang has had ties to the Chinese restaurant industry through his father, Eugene Wang, who retired 10 years ago from running Tien Tsin Chinese restaurant in northwest suburban Wheeling.
"Growing up, I was never that into the restaurant but now I understand its importance. My uncle also had a restaurant and for my dad and his brother it was the American dream," Tom Wang said.
Eugene Wang, 69, who ran Tien Tsin for 30 years, said Saturday that he's easing his "restlessness" from retirement by joining his son at MAK.
"I still got energy left," Eugene Wang said during a break from the kitchen, where he's serving as executive chef.
Located in the former Renegade Craft storefront at 1924 W. Division St., just east of Damen Ave., the restaurant features bamboo booths, a long, front counter made of repurposed wood from an 1885 Louis Sullivan building, and warm green walls.
If all goes as planned, MAK — which stands for "Modern Asian Kitchen" — will be a leader in what Wang is calling the "Asian Food Revolution."
Unlike greasy and heavily-fried Chinese food of yesteryear, at MAK all of the ingredients are lightly rather than deeply fried and locally sourced. The service is fast casual, counter style rather than sit-down.
Hormone-free chicken dishes, nutrient-rich Quinoa, gluten-free Korean wings and Mak-Gogi — Korean-style marinated beef with Spanish onions are among the menu highlights.
The menu is divided into a half dozen appetizers (such as wings, soup, and salad), wraps, bowls and sides ranging in price from $2 to $10.
MAK's wraps are made with a flour tortilla "like Asian burritos," according to Tom Wang.
Similar to other fast casual restaurants such as Chipotle or Subway, guests who want to create a custom meal can choose their ingredients and watch it being prepared.
The menu also includes an array of gluten-free items: "Chicken Wangs," containing crispy, fried chicken wings with sweet and spicy sauce; soba salad with organic soba noodles, pickled daikon and vinaigrette; seasoned quinoa with ginger, garlic, green onions and peeled edamame; lightly-fried General MAK chicken or shrimp tossed on a tangy glaze; and a stir-fried chicken and broccoli bowl called "MAK ABC. "
A diverse selection of sides includes seasoned spicy broccoli, Chinese bean sprouts, blistered green beans (slightly crunchy flash-fried green beans dropped in the deep fryer briefly, per Wang) and spicy cabbage slaw, among others.
As an added bonus for those enjoying their food in a bowl, MAK offers a "chork" utensil, which is a cross between a chopstick and a fork.
Wang said the full menu along with carry-out will be introduced Thursday.
As the rain began to pour late Saturday, many festival attendees took cover inside of MAK, lured by a worker on the sidewalk offering free samples of chicken with scallions and garlic sauce.
Among the crowd were Division street residents Heidi Hough and Art B. from the Green Roof Growers blog.
"It's nice to have well-sourced food, not bar food [on Division St.]. We've been watching it and waiting for it to open," Hough said.
MAK Restaurant, 1924 W. Division St. P: 773-772-6251. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.