LINCOLN PARK — Dinner party devotees and wannabe chefs will soon have a place to gather, drink and cook in the heart of Lincoln Park.
Chef Rebecca Goldfarb started The Social Table, a place to learn basic culinary skills while meeting friends and indulging in a BYOB setting, in New York six years ago and is moving the operation to Armitage Avenue.
"It's much more of a social activity that happens to revolve around cooking than a cooking school," Goldfarb said. "It's a night out."
The move to Chicago and her under-construction, 2,200-square-foot business at 819 W. Armitage Ave. is a big step up for Goldfarb.
She started The Social Table while unemployed in a tiny 400-square-foot basement kitchen in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan, and had been the lone employee for the past six years.
The Chicago location will include two floors, two kitchens and two dining areas run by three or four chef instructors along with Goldfarb.
A night at The Social Table usually consists of prepping, cooking, plating and eventually eating a full meal with a group of between eight and 10 people.
There are two versions.
Guests can either sign up for spots to join in on the "dinner party" for a certain menu or can reserve the whole space for eight to 12 friends and chose the menu.
Goldfarb prefers the first, which puts groups of strangers together in the kitchen along with bottles of wine and beer — and food.
"There's something really cool about going out and just doing something totally different with people who are into the same thing that you are," she said. "Yeah. I'm willing to go sit with strangers, and have sharp objects and drink alcohol and play with fire."
The social classes even led to a wedding in New York for a couple that shared their first date cooking together.
"It's a nice way to break that feeling of 'we either went to a bar' or 'went to dinner at a restaurant,'" Goldfarb said.
The Social Table is tentatively scheduled to have a soft opening for friends and family in March and to open to the public in April.
The concept is filling the building left vacant bay the long-closed Ethel's Chocolate Lounge.
Since Goldfarb packed up and moved to Chicago about a year ago, the Midwestern vibes have been obvious, she said.
She grew up in Los Angeles and has lived in San Francisco and New York.
"People haven't even met me and are welcoming me into the neighborhood," she said. "I was like 'Wow. Community huh? That's that Midwest thing you guys talk about.'"
While the plan is to emulate the same concept from New York, Goldfarb would like to eventually host guest a guest chef series with local chefs who will put on cooking demos.
She would also like to obtain a liquor license at some point to carry some local microbreweries' products and have an extra supply of the vino on hand in case the table runs dry.
"People think that cooking and food is supposed to be this serious endeavor," Goldfarb said. "You are supposed to like it. It's supposed to be a good time."