Chenggu Impression Chinese arrives at Wicker Park

One of the city’s best Sichuan restaurants is opening a restaurant in Wicker Park, an area little known for its Chinese options. Chengdu Impression will soon arrive at the corner of Milwaukee and Paulina, offering co-owner Ryan Hu a second restaurant. The original Chengdu feel caused a sensation in Lincoln Park, offering this neighborhood a choice other than the Mandarin and Cantonese dishes that have dominated the neighborhood for years.

Wicker Park’s menu will initially be identical to the original, says Hu, but it will eventually gradually introduce new dishes based on what is currently popular in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan Province, known for its spicy food. . Hu is planning more street food style options. The new restaurant also has space and adequate ventilation for a grill that opens up the possibility of serving meat kebabs. Although the style is from a different region of China, the kebabs are said to be similar to those that customers can find at Gao’s Kabob Sports Grill in Chinatown.

“Last year we wanted to try to get a location in West Town or Milwaukee,” Hu explains. “But there was not much on the market at the time due to the pandemic.”

For the uninitiated, Chengdu Impression’s original location opened in 2013. The menu ranges from American favorites (Mongolian beef, cashew chicken) to less familiar dishes outside of Chinatown ( cooked rabbit, rice jelly, hot wok frog). Of course, there are Sichuan reserve dishes like mapo tofu and chili chicken.

The Wicker Park location could open as early as next week, pending inspections. Hu performed in the space at 1300 N. Milwaukee Avenue, vacant since 2018 after the departure of Al’s Beef. At one point, the space was ticket to a club of Celeste owners (Fadi Hindo, Nader Hindo and Rafid Hindo). There was even a hearing for a zoning change, but the pandemic shattered those plans.

Chengdu Impression teams have built a new, larger kitchen, and there is seating for 15 tables inside. Hu says there are also plans to set up seating on the patio alongside Paulina with an additional five or six tables. He also plans to get a liquor license to sell beer and wine, but not until spring.

The pandemic has affected restaurants at all levels. Hu estimates that dinner is down about 50 to 60 percent at Lincoln Park Restaurant – and that’s after an improvement that has occurred over the past three weeks or so. The investors at Chengdu Impression used this knowledge in the way they approached their new project. They chose to build a larger kitchen to accommodate take out orders. They also took the time to remodel the Lincoln Park restaurant to align it with the design of the Wicker Park location, for branding purposes.

The pandemic has also affected research and development, as travel restrictions prevented Hu from traveling to China. Instead of having the chance to taste the food himself, he relies on friends to tell him what the latest trends are. Hu says he sees that Chengu restaurants are opting for a Western-style presentation with certain dishes. His restaurant will not dwell on this; instead, they’ll lean more on nostalgia. Hu describes it as a “big pot style of cooking” with more broth, similar to street food. These special dishes should be rolled out approximately one month after opening.

The owners of Chengdu Impression did their research before choosing Wicker Park. Mon Lung is a neighborhood staple for Chinese-American cuisine on Noble Square. A little to the west, New China Station added Sichuan dishes a few years ago. Lao Peng You in West Town offers Central Asian dumplings. Wicker Park has had a void for Chinese food along Milwaukee Avenue since Papajin closed in 2015. Hu, who is the nephew of Chicago’s most famous Chinese restaurant owner – Tony Hu (Lao Sze Chuan) – saw an opportunity. Chengdu Impression will use the major third-party delivery companies, but advises customers to order through the restaurant’s website.

Stay tuned for an official announcement of the opening date.

Chengdu Print, 1300 N, Milwaukee Avenue, opens mid-October.

About Marc Womack

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