UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — When Tru alum and acclaimed Washington restaurant owner Laurel Khan decided to open a second restaurant in Chicago's Ukrainian Village, she opted to make her curiously named Curious a globally inspired "chef's playground" with an oft-changing menu.
"I love to travel in my head. Curious is urban comfort food, the food of our world. If I have passion for what I am doing, it will come out in the food," Khan said.
Located in the former Gari Sushi at 2020 W. Chicago Ave. just west of Ukrainian Village's busy Damen and Chicago intersection, the intimate 38-seat BYOB bistro Curious is set to open at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The farm-to-table menu will change frequently. Among this week's offerings: Pakistani oxtail with roasted cauliflower and basmati rice and "Mackinaw's chicken ravioli" with thyme cream sauce and pesto ricotta.
The hearty chicken ravioli is a nod to one of the most popular dishes at Mackinaw's, in Chehalis, Wash., which Khan opened in 2010.
Khan, who relocated to Chicago, has left Mackinaw's day-to-day operations to the youngest of her three sons, Yasser, while her middle son, Kashif, has joined her Curious team.
Prices at Curious will range from $16 to $25 per dish on average. Hours are still being worked out, but to start, Khan aims for 5 to 10 p.m. daily except for Mondays, when Curious will be closed.
Khan also is considering adding a Sunday family-style dinner that could begin at 2 p.m. every Sunday.
"I want to bring back Sunday dinner, maybe Southern food, maybe Pakistani, with shared appetizers like fondue. It will be evolving into whatever it needs to be," Khan said.
At a soft opening Saturday, menu highlights included a four-cheese crab mac and cheese, a Cuban ground pork and beef burger with avocado and tropical fruit salad, Southern barbecue pork with black-eyed peas and fried grits, Sudanese lamb shank and Indian lentil curry with veggies for vegetarians.
When Curious opens Tuesday, local residents will find a familiar face among Khan's staff: server Anne Poluchowicz, formerly with neighboring brunch spot Sunrise Cafe for nine years.
Poluchowicz moved a few doors west to join Curious.
"It will be so different to see the corner [of Chicago/Damen] at night instead of day," Poluchowicz said over the weekend.
Khan's decision to open a bistro in Ukrainian Village was inspired in part by a conversation with a stranger she met on the sidewalk.
"Last spring, I walked every part of Chicago, up and down the streets exploring neighborhoods for a restaurant. I was on Chicago [Avenue] and saw this storefront for rent. A woman who saw me started talking with me and said this area is up-and-coming, full of energy," Khan said.
For updates, visit Curious' Facebook page.