For the past two years, Income Tax (5959 N. Broadway) has been delighting Edgewater with its comforting food, innovative wine program, and welcoming atmosphere. It’s garnered great reviews and national attention, and it won the 2018 Jean Banchet award for Best Bar.
But a few months ago, the restaurant’s original chef, Ryan Henderson, departed, and his replacement, Ellison Park, redesigned the menu. So how does Income Tax hold up now?
Park’s most notable previous gig was as at Parachute, where he spent four years as executive sous-chef. There, he worked with a menu that was printed anew every day; he’s bringing this to Income Tax, which previously had a menu that shifted more seasonally.
“I like to go by the seat of my pants a little bit; bring in products before I know exactly what I’m doing, and build off of that,” says Park.
Coming into a restaurant with a strong group of regulars was a challenge, but he’s crafted a menu that keeps them coming back. “It’s not like Income Tax had some no name guy [running the kitchen]; you have to follow an act that’s pretty good,” Park says.
Income Tax was originally designed to showcase its wine program, and that focus hasn’t changed under its new chef. In fact, one of the coolest gimmicks from opening day remains popular: Almost any bottle on the wine list can be ordered as a half-bottle. Once a bottle is split like this, the remaining vino is available for other tables to order by the glass. This rewards the impulsive buyer as well as the one willing to wait, as some rare and expensive wines drift on and off the list all night long.
As for the food menu, the former one was split by region and included a fair bit of molecular gastronomy. Park’s new menu leans more traditional, dispensing with the geography lessons and sticking to an appetizer-entrée-dessert format. That doesn’t mean it’s any less interesting, just a little easier to navigate. Dishes like cod cheeks with snail butter and seared lamb belly with smoked grapes bring some innovative flavors to the menu without being too offbeat.
A highlight of Park’s menu is arguably one of the most delicious roast chickens served right now in the city. It’s a dish that requires a lot of thought and planning. Park spent a summer working in Paris a couple of years ago, and finding a bird in Chicago like those he’d cooked in France was a challenge. Eventually, he settled on the Green Circle, a heritage breed that originates from France and is raised free-range in Pennsylvania.
“They are just beautiful birds — the closest thing I could find to what I experienced in France,” says Park. “The fat is rich and yellow. The meat almost has a red hue to it.”
The bird is brined overnight, butchered, and then roasted low and slow over a deep bed of vegetable scraps gathered from the restaurant while being basted with a mix of garlic and lemon. Before service, the chicken is brushed with fermented honey infused with smoked garlic and dusted with herbes de Provence. It’s served with a flaming sprig of herbs, which infuses the entire dining room with savory smoke.
General manager Collin Moody says he’s been pleasantly surprised at how Income Tax — which is, at its heart, a neighborhood restaurant — has become a dining destination. “When Ryan came on board early on, he had a spectacular resume, and Ellison is also way overqualified to be working with us bozos,” he says. “These incredibly talented chefs have really brought some attention from outside the neighborhood.”