AVONDALE — Beverly Kim and Johnny Clark are floating so high on cloud nine, it's a good thing they have a Parachute.
The wife-and-husband owners of Parachute, 3500 N. Elston Ave., got an unexpected shock Tuesday after they dropped their son off at school: Their year-old restaurant had received a highly coveted Michelin star, placing it in the top 22 Chicago restaurants.
"We always thought maybe down the road we can get that star, in a couple of years. So to get it a year later is extremely mind-blowing, and also we're really humbled," Kim told DNAinfo Chicago on Wednesday.
Michelin's list doesn't shift around much — in Chicago this year, only one other restaurant joined its ranks for the first time. Last year, Parachute got a spot on Michelin's Bib Gourmand list, which honors affordable,local restaurants.
After raising money on Kickstarter, the Korean-inspired eatery opened in May 2014 across from Chief O'Neill's, creating an Elston Street dining trifecta along with Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Clark said.
"At the time in Chicago, there was no one really spearheading that Korean American food. It was really hard to find anywhere I could fit in, so the only way for me was to create it," said Kim, an aria and "Top Chef" alumna and graduate of Kendall College.
Like many Avondale newcomers, the Roscoe Village couple said they "stumbled across" the neighborhood while looking for affordable real estate and fell in love with the "diverse, welcoming" community.
Parachute's star soared this year, with Bon Appetit magazine naming it one of the nation's 10 best new restaurants. Critics called its food "creative in every single way" on the season premiere of WTTW's "Check, Please!" earlier this month.
Even actor John Cusack is a fan, tweeting Wednesday night that he "just had a great meal here — will go back."
The 40-seat restaurant's seasonal, shared-plates menu rotates as often as bi-weekly, and prices range from $5-$12 for starters and $11-$29 for larger dishes. Current autumn items include crispy stuffed sesame leaves ($6), a pancake made of pork belly and mung bean ($13) and a Spanish octopus dolsot bi bim bop ($27).
"It's a very playful, very deep, earthy, cool cuisine that a lot of people haven't really tapped into. They've really embraced chili powder and fresh chilis, and there's a lot of grounded, umami-rich flavors mixed with a lot of fresh things," Kim said.
Seven years ago, Clark had returned from studying cooking in Korea and was in search for a progressive Korean restaurant. When he came across a magazine profile on Kim, he sent her his resume.
"I saw she had worked in Korea, and I figured it was at least somebody with a similar experience, and I thought she could point me in the right direction," he said.
"The rest is history."
The couple will continue dishing out the unique, playful food while working on building the Avondale cuisine scene through events like the Avondale Restaurant Crawl and A Day In Avondale, and they want to start a farmers market.
"We want to bring a little more pride to the neighborhood. It's definitely a community that we love to see keep growing," Kim said.
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