When a chef leaves a restaurant in its first year, eyebrows usually shoot up. Whispers echo. Biases harden. But when Joey Schwab replaced departing executive chef Nick Lacasse in February, the event barely qualified as a hiccup. Nothing has dimmed the bright flavors emerging from this little slice of the Mediterranean or the enthusiasm of patrons dining under custom pendant lamps in the tiny subterranean room.
Picture-perfect salt-cured Cantabrian anchovies still shimmer atop crisp buttered baguette slices, and the traditional cataplana still overflows with rich cobia collar, plump shrimp, and aromatic clams in a zesty, tomatoey stew. Delighted neighbors continue to clink their sparkly Cavas and crisp Albariños at the striking bar made from a giant sycamore slab. The staff and space remain equally welcoming—though if you’re the slightest bit claustrophobic, you may feel like one of those anchovies.
MFK immediately became one of the most lusted-after restaurants in Lake View when it opened in July. That hasn’t changed, either, and much credit goes to the owners, restaurant veterans Sari Zernich Worsham and her husband, Scott Worsham (Table Fifty-Two), who patterned the decor after the breezy seaside cafés they encountered on a 2013 trip to Spain. MFK may be the ultimate postcard.
Order this: 2011 Do Ferreiro Rebisaca Rias Baixas ($12 a glass), prawn heads ($10), chicken ballotine ($28), Basque cake ($9)