Hometown: Jeju, South Korea
Occupation: Chef and Owner, Juno
Years worked as a chef: 19
Years lived in Chicago: 20
What do you love best about Chicago’s food scene?
I love that Chicago is a melting pot of different cultures and influences from all over the world. Not only are there always new restaurants to explore, but there are always new concepts and ideas in food that make our food scene unique to the rest of the world.
If you had to name one personal favorite dish from Juno Sushi, which would it be and why? And what are some of your favorite fish to eat?
Smoked hamachi. I can never get tired of the smoky aroma. It’s also one of our more sensory stimulating dishes so it’s fun to watch people’s reactions.
My all-time favorite fish/shellfish is abalone, which I prefer to eat raw.
Name the top restaurants that you think every visitor to Chicago should try.
Grace: The ultimate in fine dining in Chicago. Beautiful and elegant restaurant, ingredients, presentation and service. Curtis Duffy hits it out of the ballpark here and it would be a memorable dining experience for any visitor.
Schwa: Another ultimate fine dining experience but in a more casual setting and BYOB. Has always been and still is one of my favorite tasting menu experiences. Michael Carlson is a creative genius and I am always blown away with his food.
Chicago Kalbi: Being a Japanese food-loving Korean, this is the perfect spot to have the best of both worlds. It’s a bit of a drive away from the city but totally worth it. The meat quality here is unsurpassed.
The Publican: Love their brunch. Great savory and sweet dishes, and they offer some of the freshest oysters in the city. I can’t help but to order at least two dozen of them when I’m there.
avec: Flavorful and hearty. Small plates so you are able to order a variety of food. They are open pretty late so that’s good for us industry people.
Describe your perfect “dining out day” in Chicago.
Breakfast: I usually eat dinner after work so I’m never hungry for breakfast.
Lunch: A bowl of pho and an order of roasted quail from Tank Noodle, or a bowl of haemul sundubu jjigae (seafood tofu stew) or mae un tang (codfish stew) from Cho Jung in Glenview. If I’m in Glenview, I’d probably have to stop by H Mart for groceries and snacks.
Dinner: If I’m feeling like a homebody, Japanese-style shabu shabu with sliced meats and vegetables from H Mart. Otherwise, Alinea or the latest menu at Next. You can’t help but be inspired by the ingredients and creativity that come out of those kitchens.
What’s your favorite neighborhood to dine out at?
Chinatown. It’s where I can basically find all of my favorite things on one menu. I love that I can have seafood, soup noodles, duck, frog, beef tripe and chicken feet all at the same time.
Any great watering holes you like to visit often?
We have to ask: what’s your favorite Chicago deep dish?
I hardly ever eat pizza but I do like Pequod’s for the caramelized crust.
Since Eats Abroad is geared toward travelers, are there any restaurants or bars at Chicago’s airports or hotels you would recommend?
What’s your guilty pleasure and where in Chicago do you go to get it?
Chicken feet, dim sum style. I always get 2-3 orders at Phoenix.
Are there any foods native to Chicago that you particularly like and that visitors should try to find?
Portillo’s Chicago-style hot dog is my favorite Chicago staple.
Finally, what would you say is the one thing any visitor must see or do before leaving Chicago?
Any of the Chicago Architecture Foundation tours are always great, especially the boat cruise on a summer day. I would recommend that any visitor should definitely take the time to walk through and explore neighborhoods outside of downtown to fully understand what Chicago has to offer.
Chef Park’s Shortlist:
Juno, 2638 N Lincoln Avenue (Lincoln Park); sushi, dinner only Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday.
Grace, 652 W Randolph Street (West Loop); progressive American, dinner only Tuesday-Saturday, closed Sunday-Monday.
Schwa, 1466 N Ashland Avenue (Wicker Park); new American, dinner only Tuesday-Saturday, closed Sunday-Monday.
Chicago Kalbi, 3752 W Lawrence Avenue (Albany Park); Korean and Japanese, dinner only Wednesday-Monday, closed Tuesday.
The Publican, 837 W Fulton Market (West Loop); new American, dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
avec, 615 W Randolph Street (River West); Mediterranean, dinner daily, brunch Sunday.
Tank Noodle, 4953-55 North Broadway (Uptown); Vietnamese, breakfast, lunch and dinner Thursday-Tuesday, closed Wednesday.
Cho Jung, 952 Harlem Avenue, Glenview, IL; Korean, lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday.
Super H Mart, 801 Civic Center Drive, Niles, IL; Korean grocery market, open daily.
Alinea, 1723 N Halsted Street (Lincoln Park); molecular gastronomy, dinner only Wednesday-Sunday, closed Monday-Tuesday (tickets must be purchased in advance).
Next, 953 W Fulton Market (West Loop); cuisine varies (theme menus change every few months), dinner only Wednesday-Sunday, closed Monday-Tuesday (tickets must be purchased in advance).
The Violet Hour, 1520 N. Damen Avenue (Wicker Park); cocktail bar, open daily.
The Barrelhouse Flat, 2624 N Lincoln Avenue (Lincoln Park); bar, open daily.
Fox Bar, Soho House Chicago, 113-125 N Green Street (West Loop); bar, open daily.
Pequod’s Pizza, 2207 N Clybourn Avenue (Lincoln Park); deep dish pizza, lunch, dinner and late night daily.
Nico Osteria, 1015 N Rush Street (Gold Coast); Italian, breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
Phoenix Restaurant, 2131 S Archer Street (Chinatown); Chinese, dim sum and dinner daily.
Portillo’s, 100 W Ontario Street (River North); American, lunch and dinner daily, late night Friday-Sunday.
Chicago Architecture Foundation, various tours offered throughout the city.
About the Chef: Growing up on Korea’s popular vacation island, Chef BK Park was fortunate enough to be exposed to fresh seafood at a young age. “My earliest childhood memories involved fishing with my family and collecting fresh sea urchins and abalones.” In the mid-1990s, Park moved to Chicago to continue his education, and he worked as a sushi chef part-time. He ended up loving the gig, and it marked the start of his culinary career.
Park honed his skills during his time at popular sushi bar Arami, where he was head sushi chef. He left the restaurant in 2012 and opened Juno (named after his son) the following year with restaurateur Jason Chan; their new sushi spot received a glowing 3-star review from the Chicago Tribune. During summer 2015, Park gained full ownership of Juno, and he says diners can expect some new additions. “We are currently in the process of changing the decor, as well as refreshing the food and beverage menus. Stay tuned!”