When last we heard from Chef Trevor Teich, he was thrilled to finally find a permanent home for his long-standing, super-popular pop-up, Claudia. While that iteration of the restaurant got rave reviews (including three stars from Jeff Ruby), it was in an even more precarious position than most restaurants at the start of the pandemic. Without massive capital backing, without a liquor license, and dependent on a super-intimate fine dining experience, there was really no way to keep any version of Claudia going as Covid Spring dragged into Covid Summer. “When the third week of shutdown rolled around,” explained Teich, “I decided to fold my cards right then.” He paid his vendors, negotiated with his landlords, and hunkered down to figure out what to do next.
That next step is almost upon us. Claudia is taking over the Bucktown space (1952 N. Damen Ave.) that has housed Takashi and Dixie (and most recently, Stoneflower). Unlike Claudia’s previous incarnations, this won’t be a delicate jewel box of a dining room – the space is large, with two stories and a full bar. “Walking into the space, I felt like I could see Claudia there,” says Teich. “In my original business plan that I wrote six years ago, there was a bar, and now we have one.”
For diners, that means that in addition to the whimsical 10-course Claudia tasting menu, there’s also a bar-based a la carte menu that will focus heavily on French classics. Think pâté en croûte, foie gras torchon, and seafood towers – hearty stuff that couldn’t be further from the delicate food at Claudia. This will allow Teich to stretch his creative muscles a little bit, by adding what he calls the “Claudia Twist” to these classics. Teich will also (finally!) have a liquor license; Claudia has always been BYOB. That means a full cocktail menu, plus curated wine pairings (a standard level and a reserve level) for the tasting menu.
In addition to the bar and the expanded space, Claudia will also offer a new, enhanced chefs’ counter experience. When guests enter the restaurant, they’ll see a glass-enclosed kitchen that includes 12 seats where you can order a special 15-course version of the menu. It’ll include the standard Claudia dishes, but with options for enhancement – Teich wouldn’t spill the beans yet, but I expect it’ll be extra ingredients like caviar or foie gras to give dishes some extra zing. What he did tell me is that he plans to do a full cheese course, with a wide selection of cheeses and accompaniments – something I haven’t really experienced since Tru closed its doors.
However, even at this scaled up version, Claudia will still be Claudia – informal as ever and without waiters and staff monologuing and interrupting your dinner. “I want people to have fun. We like to break any type of stuffiness,” says Teich. “I’m not going to mansplain to you what butter is.”
Claudia will be opening in August, and tickets go on sale through Tock on August 15.