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Eight Questions for Phillip Foss of Meatyballs About His New Project, El

Phillip Foss, owner of the Meatyballs food-truck fleet, is planning a sometimes-restaurant called El in the Meatyballs prep space in Douglas Park. It’s technically open, though they have no plates, forks, or glasses, and aren’t taking reservations.

Phillip Foss Chicago chef

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


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