PILSEN — Eating well in Pilsen is never a challenge, but the neighborhood has gotten a boost in recognition on the dining scene as three of its restaurants made the Michelin Bib Gourmand list for 2018.
Mexican restaurant DeCOLORES, 1626 S. Halsted St., has become a regular on the list of affordable and high-quality eateries. This year, it joins 53 other Bib Gourmand restaurants, which Michelin announced Friday.
Newcomers Pleasant House Pub and HaiSous join the ranks of winning restaurants in the city like Au Cheval, The Duck Inn and Girl & the Goat. The additions triple the number of Bib Gourmand restaurants in the neighborhood.
For his part, Pleasant House co-founder Art Jackson said he was caught by surprise when news broke of the English-style pub making the list for the first time. Jackson and his wife Chelsea first opened Pleasant House in Bridgeport in 2011 before relocating to Pilsen in July 2016.
"Something like this is one of those really good things that snaps you back into reality and makes you stop for a second and think, 'Oh wow, all of this hard work that we've been immersed in means something to somebody,' " Jackson said.
Known for the pub-style royal pies that put the original, tiny Pleasant House on the map, the pub expanded its menu to include house-made pastries, pub snacks, sandwiches and a Friday fish fry.
We're excited to have been awared a Michelin Bib Gourmand and when asked what newcomers to the Pub can expect from Pleasant House we tell them "Pies and Beer!" Our savory British-style #RoyalPies and a well curated beer selection including cask conditioned #realales to accompany them are at the backbone of what we do and the warm reception and cool vibes from our staff and space are what we have on offer. Hope to see you soon to cheers with us! #bibgourmand #michelinguidech Photo credits: Jaclyn Rivas
Now that the Jacksons feel they've fully settled in to the new digs, 2119 S. Halsted St., they're continuing to test out new items, like vegan and gluten-free pies, Art Jackson said. The Jacksons also operate Pleasant House Bread out of The Plant in Back of the Yards.
"We knew we were doing something simple — even though we're doing British savory pies, it's still that same approachable comfort food as you'd find with pot pies," Jackson said. "And most everybody is familiar with that."
Being named a Bib Gourmand spot was also a surprise for the folks at HaiSous, a Vietnamese restaurant that opened at the end of June at 1800 S. Carpenter St.
"We're so new and I feel like we've still got our noses down to the grind stone, so we we're necessarily hopefully," said Danielle Dang, who opened the restaurant with her husband, former Embeya chef Thai Dang.
In their first four months, HaiSous has striven each day to be its best while still finding its footing, Danielle Dang said.
"Being well-received is awesome. It makes us feel we're getting somewhere," she said. "But by no means do we consider this anything but the beginning."
Thai Dang successfully sued his previous employers, including Embeya co-owner Attila Gyulai, after he was fired in March 2015. Two lawsuits accusing the restaurant's partners of breach of contract and underpaying the chef left Embeya "ruined," and it closed in June 2016.
The legal battle showed how brutal the restaurant industry can be, which drives the Dangs to make HaiSous a success, Danielle Dang said.
"There was a lot to really overcome," she said. So even with the Bib Gourmand nod, "there's no load off. It's every day, we try to be better than before," she said.
The new restaurant includes some of Thai Dang's signature dishes, including a green papaya salad with house-made Vietnamese beef jerky, seasonal Vietnamese-style curry and roasted duck stuffed with kaffir lime leaves.
Dinner entrees are $13-$38, or a tasting menu is available for the table at $33 per person with a $17 beverage pairing. Brunch is also offered on weekends.
Some eateries start off on the Bib Gourmand list before graduating to a highly coveted Michelin star, like Parachute in Avondale. Michelin will announce star recipients on Oct. 20.