Sweetbreads Photos: Jeff Marini

Phillip Foss’s tiny BYO draws a self-selecting clientele: the kind of people who want to know every detail of how that chawanmushi with morels and snails was prepared, or exactly what temperature the compressed octopus tentacles were sous-vided at to make them so tender. And the loquacious Foss, whose Douglas Park kitchen is so open he invites patrons into it and makes them honorary sous-chefs, is just the guy to indulge such curiosity.

In a location not exactly known as a dining destination, EL Ideas has mastered the restaurant–dinner party mash-up with one seating a night and one 13-course set menu. Foss’s lack of boundaries is refreshing. Diners are encouraged to, say, lick sauce from a plate of wagyu beef, or relive the childhood ritual of dipping french fries into a Wendy’s Frosty by consuming a course of crispy potatoes topped with leek soup and vanilla ice that’s been poached in liquid nitrogen. EL Ideas is joyously irreverent and utterly one of a kind.

French Fries and Ice Cream
Chef/owner Phillip Foss