Foss, the operator of the three-trucks-and-counting Meatyballs fleet, told The Stew he planned to open a sometimes-restaurant called El (2419 W. 14th St.; 312-226-8144) in the Meatyballs prep space. He gave Dish the meat of the story.
Dish: Where is this place?
Phillip Foss: 14th and Western. It’s like a dead-end street, right off of Western. It just makes us kind of a destination. It’s going to take a little bit of a plan to get to this. It’s not a neighborhood restaurant. I don’t even know what neighborhood we are in. [Editor’s note: The Chicago Neighborhoods poster with the city seal calls it Douglas Park.]
D: Why open a restaurant in such an unexpected place?
PF: I recently had an inspection and received the business license and learned we were given a license for a restaurant [rather than a mobile-vending license]. So that’s essentially how this whole thing came into being. A spark went off.
D: What are you going to serve?
PF: We’ll start off very casually. Do a couscous dinner. My wife makes a homemade couscous. Maybe some collaborative dinners. The most beautiful thing is the flexibility. It has tremendous potential. If I want to be open for just a few nights a week, that’s what I will do. Meatyballs will be the breadwinner. That gives me the flexibility to do whatever I want to do with El.
D: Do you mean that El won’t necessarily be open, say, every Friday night?
PF: It’s not going to have specific hours, [but] we will give plenty of notice. It might be like Next, [where we would] take payment when reservations are made.
D: What’s your goal with El?
PF: I want it to be a hot thing on the food scene, obviously, and I want to get back into fine dining with it ultimately.
D: Why did you choose the name El?
PF: It came out a couple of ways. The food we are doing with Meatyballs was kind of el-evating lunch cuisine. And then as a restaurant and as a food truck we are el-usive. As an homage to the el-evated train. And finally, it’s the Spanish word for “the,” and I kind of like that as well.
D: Is it open yet?
PF: Technically speaking, [yes]. I haven’t been seating anyone here. I have no plates, no forks, no glasses, but we can serve people.
D: When will it really be open?
PF: I would say with all confidence there will be a dinner by the first week of June. I’m not going to be aiming for highfalutin cuisine until l have my feet underneath me. I want to do some casual concepts with it, just to get my sea legs.
Foss is not taking reservations for El yet; when he’s ready, he will announce it on his blog. [@ELideasFoss]
Photograph: The Pickled Tongue & Foss Family Chronicles