Named for his grandmother, Clark’s new restaurant will be a personal intersection of culture, preservation and heritage
James Beard award-winning Chef Johnny Clark opened Anelya in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood. Starting this month, the new restaurant from Chef Clark aims to preserve Ukrainian culinary traditions, as well as provide an introduction of the cuisine to a larger national audience.
The restaurant’s name and background is derived from Clark’s grandmother, Anelya, and serves as her 100th birthday gift from her grandson. The restaurant marks a major move for Chef Clark as he steps out beyond the critically acclaimed, Michelin-starred and award-winning restaurant Parachute, of which he co-owns and operates with his wife and partner, Chef Beverly Kim.
The restaurant, which was first conceived through a series of dinners hosted at wherewithall after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, is the most personal project Clark has launched. “I have such a strong desire to share a unique culture that I feel has been underrepresented throughout the world,” said Chef Clark and added, “I’ll be cooking traditionally inspired Ukrainian dishes with a modern approach. I want to tap into all the new and exciting things happening in the Ukrainian culinary scene.” According to Clark, Ukraine has been in the process of a culinary renaissance since becoming independent in 1991.
A major focus on the culinary program from Clark will be fermentation and preservation of a season’s bounty, with surprises along the way ranging from tomatoes to even whole watermelons. For starters, Anelya will roll out a custom made Zakusky tower directly to the diner’s table, which will carry various Ukrainian-style small plates like sliced and cured meats, pickled vegetables, fish and other hors d-oeuvres. Zakusky, or table offerings, are one of the most recognizable aspects of Ukrainian dining. Diners will select starters from the tower to begin their meal before heading on to other á la carte offerings.
Chef Clark’s main menu will feature creative takes on staple dishes like Varenyky, which are similar to pierogis or ravioli, with fillings like pumpkin and farmers cheese, or even seasonal fruits like cherries as a sweet and savory application. Anelya will also offer modern takes on dishes like Holubtsi, or stuffed cabbage with sturgeon and buckwheat with caviar and sherry cream sauce.
The wine program at Anelya will feature many styles and varietals imported from strictly Eastern European states. Clark’s cocktail program will feature takes on traditional favorites named for Ukrainian folk heroes like Taras Shevchenko, like a shaken horseradish martin. There will be non-alcoholic drinks like a homemade kvass, which is a naturally fermented beverage resembling kombucha, made from beets or other ingredients like grains and rye bread.
When it comes to design, Anelya aims for an old world element, which means fitting the room with bistro chairs, raw walls and elements of the turn of the century building’s historical past. Charlie Vinz, designer and architect of Parachute’s iconic restaurant, gives the space a modern industrial style that is at the same time cozy and warm. The space will include rich, dark colors, exposed wood accents, and touches of Ukrainian embroidery.
The logo for the restaurant has its own personal story tied to Clark. The logo is inspired by the floor tile pattern from the actual floor of Clark’s grandmother’s childhood home in the city of Kharkiv. Clark had recently visited the flat on a trip to Ukraine and pulled the tile from the floor himself so he could always have a piece of her history with him. The logo also features a poppy seed pod, which comes from one of Ukraine’s most recognizable flowers, the red poppy flower. The flower was his grandmother’s favorite, and has significant meaning in Ukraine — it represents joy, beauty and youth.
Anelya from James Beard award winning Chef Johnny Clark is a Ukrainian restaurant steeped in the preservation of the culinary traditions of Ukraine. From Zakusky towers filled with cured meats, pickled vegetables, fish and hors d-oeuvres to Eastern European wines and cocktails inspired by Ukrainian folk heroes, Anelya is an exploration of one of the world’s most emerging cuisines. For more information, visit www.anelyarestaurant.com or find the restaurant on social at @anelyarestaurant on Instagram and Facebook.