Thanks to a burgeoning restaurant scene highlighted by chef Nathan Sears, Chicago’s foodie culture is officially deeper than its famous deep-dish pizzas. “You can find incredible representations of almost every nation’s food in Chicago,” says Sears, a longtime Windy City-area resident and son of a hotel chef. “I can honestly say that, food-wise, nothing in the country excites me more than what’s going on in Chicago.”
One of the most exciting recent debuts is Sears’ own two-in-one restaurant concept: a standalone fine-dining chef’s table called D.A.S. within a German beer hall named Radler. (D.A.S. stands for ding an sich, a German phrase for “thing within itself.”) The result is one building containing two wildly different experiences.
“Both have the German influence as far as the flavors and the old-school cooking techniques. But at D.A.S., I may apply four of those techniques to the same carrot to pull out a completely different flavor instead of just roasting it,” says Sears. “At Radler, there have been a couple nights where we’ve had 400 people. I couldn’t do what I do at D.A.S. there unless I had a small army.”
It’s a bold move for the former chef de cuisine at Vie, the high-end farm-to-table restaurant in Chicago’s Western Springs suburb. Now Sears has complete control over D.A.S.’s table of 10, three days a week.
“I don’t have to rely on other cooks, or streamline it, or take away the cooking because I’m afraid someone’s not going to glaze a carrot properly,” he explains. “Everything falls on my shoulders. The food is as good as I can possibly make it.”
The D.A.S. menu will feature six- or seven-course meals from locally sourced meat and produce—whatever Sears feels like cooking to perfection that night and as long as it’s luxurious. “The idea is to emulate old-school dining,” he says, “when it was about the whole experience of going out and eating great food presented simply and executed flawlessly.”