Boka Group, the restaurant group behind Girl & the Goat, Balena, and other restaurants here or soon to come, held a tenth anniversary event at their first, namesake restaurant last night. Cofounder Kevin Boehm pointed out that the group actually started 12 years ago, when he teamed up with Rob Katz, but spent two years watching deals fall apart, with Boehm even moving back to Nashville at one point. Finally they managed to get Boka off the ground—with chef Giuseppe Scurato, who they had hired off Craigslist—and the only preopening publicity they got came from Chicago magazine's Dish, which was mainly about an innovation Boehm was sure was going to sweep the restaurant world: the cell phone booth.
It didn't, but Boka caught on and, as Boehm recalled, they learned quickly on the job about being upscale dining entrepreneurs. When Scurato (Ceres' Table) moved on they found, oddly enough, another Giuseppe in Giuseppe Tentori (Boehm said Katz was trying to save on chef jackets that already said "Giuseppe"), luring the Charlie Trotter veteran in part with a commitment to win him a Food & Wine Best New Chef award. Lots of employers say that to lots of chefs I suspect, but Boehm and Katz lived up to their commitment to what we might call the high middle—well-crafted cuisine that doesn't forget the people-pleasing side of the equation—and Tentori and Boka made Food & Wine's list in 2008.
Since then they've become one of the top restaurant groups in the city, opening restaurants centered on top chefs like Stephanie Izard, Paul Virant, Chris Pandel, and now Lee Wolen at Boka, and embodying well-thought-out concepts that don't seem manufactured (or immediately produce suburban clones; there's no Little Goat Schaumburg, at least not yet). Three more are coming in the next 15 months, including a steakhouse in the West Loop with the Bristol Group, another meat-oriented called GT Prime, and a Japanese concept called Momotaro. So congratulations to them on 10 years, or as Boehm privately admitted, really ten and a half—but they were waiting to get Boka fixed up before having the party. More food news after the jump.
• The best-known international poll of top restaurants around the world, the S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants, lifted Alinea back into the top ten this year at number nine, which makes it the second-highest-ranked U.S. restaurant after Eleven Madison Park in New York. Beyond that there's not a lot of news for Chicagoans in the very international list, though Astrid y Gaston, the flagship of the Peruvian empire that plopped Tanta Chicago here last year, came in at number 18.
• Remember Action Bronson, the rapper who likes fine food, as seen in this video a while back? He now has his own monthly food program at Vice's Munchies food site and everything you need to know about whether you want to watch it is contained in the title, Fuck, That's Delicious. As more than one friend pointed out, it'll make a great night of must-see TV along with Ow, My Balls. Here's the trailer:
• You too can be in a documentary about food, and without having to be a rapper! Latin-tinged Sobremesa Supper Club's next dinner on May 18 will be filmed for a web series called Mind/Stomach/Soul. If you don't want to be on camera, they'll have another, described as a "Latin-inspired, vegetable-forward menu that will showcase produce from local urban farms like Growing Power, and providers present at Green City Market" on June 1. Both ask a $55 donation, and reservations must be made via email@example.com.
• Podcast news: the episode of The Feed about Japan, from two guys with a globetrotting budget named Dolinsky and Bayless, is pretty fascinating. Go here, it's episode three. Chicago Food Snob Joe Campagna also just launched an audio version of his 20 Questions series with chefs here. And yes, I have a new one too with Phillip Foss, Jeff Ruby of Chicago magazine, and a lady named Nigella on it.