UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — When he’s not cultivating herbs in his backyard garden or making emulsion sauces in his kitchen, Adam Wendt is a music lover who frequents punk shows at the Empty Bottle.
That’s one reason why the Chicago chef was thrilled to join the team at Bite Cafe, the restaurant that adjoins the beloved 26-year-old Ukrainian Village music venue.
“It makes me proud of being in this neighborhood,” Wendt said. “It has such a legacy to it, [and it is] humbling and great to be here.”
Wendt took over the kitchen at 1039 N. Western Ave. a little over three months ago. Since then, he has created a cafe-style farm-to-table menu that sources at least 80 percent of its ingredients from U.S. farmers.
Of that 80 percent, the majority of the restaurant’s produce and proteins will come from the Midwest, Wendt said.
Many of the herbs used in his cooking, such as the verbena in last weekend’s cheesecake special, come from Wendt’s own backyard garden.
He also sources from his plots at the El Yunque Community Garden in Humboldt Park.
“Cooking with things that were raised with care, it honestly tastes better,” Wendt said. “You don’t realize what a carrot tastes like until you taste one that’s been grown by actual hands, and not a machine.”
If his style of cooking sounds familiar, that’s probably be because you’ve eaten Wednt’s food before.
When the Rockford native moved to Chicago in 2008, he took a job as sous chef at Duchamp, a Bucktown bistro that closed in 2012.
In 2010, Wendt took the helm of Wicker Park’s Bangers & Lace as executive chef.
A few years later, Wendt took a job as executive sous chef hired at four-time Michelin-starred Dusek’s Board & Beer in Pilsen.
Like Bite Cafe, Dusek’s adjoins another music venue, Thalia Hall.
“Music and food really correlate a lot,” he said. “They go together like spaghetti and meatballs.”
In 2016, Wendt returned to Wicker Park and opened The Delta, 1745 W. North Ave.
Earlier this year, he launched The Feller, a kitchen within Logan Square’s pharmacy-themed bar Spilt Milk, 2758 W. Fullerton Ave.
Since 2008, Wendt himself has been apartment-hopping throughout Bucktown, Noble Square, Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village and Humboldt Park.
The Bite Cafe gig brings him to one of his favorite neighborhoods in Chicago, Wendt said.
“This neighborhood seems to take to local businesses more than others I’ve seen. [Empty Bottle] has been here for 26 years,” he said. “Being in a big city, it makes me feel at home, coming from a small town. It’s quiet, it’s chill. … It just really makes me feel at home.”
And, he said, he’s glad he’ll be able to catch more shows at “the Bottle.” For example, he recently caught sludge metal band Eyehategod take the stage.
“That was just nuts. It made me feel like I was young again,” he said. “Then the next day, I realize I’m not young again.”
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