2019 is still young, but it’s safe to say that the biggest restaurant opening of the year has arrived. Galit, which means “wave” in Hebrew, is the hotly anticipated Israeli-inspired venture from Zach Engel and Andrés Clavero. The former earned acclaim—and a James Beard Foundation Award for rising star chef—as the chef at New Orleans’s beloved Shaya, and his move to Chicago made national headlines when he first announced plans to open his own restaurant here in Lincoln Park. From the motif and the convivial cuisine to the drinks and the name itself (Galit is also the nickname of Engel’s daughter, Margalit), the restaurant is a full-fledged passion project for the chef, who spent ample time living and working in Tel Aviv, and for Clavero, who is of Palestinian heritage. And there’s a lot to love about this place.
Inspired by Engel’s travels to Israel and his extensive work in New Orleans, Galit is all about seasonal Middle Eastern cooking, much of which is meant to share, smear, and dip. Of course, hummus is a star here, served silky smooth and strewn with add-ons like tahina, trumpet mushrooms, and brisket, along with fluffy house-baked pita. Another section of the menu, Salatim, is all about salads, spreads, dips, and sides, such as wood-roasted Brussels sprouts with orange blossom, and labneh with hyssop. Save room for the coal-fired offerings. As diners can clearly see in the open kitchen, Galit’s charcoal hearth is the centerpiece of the restaurant, and Engel makes the most of it with savory plates like cumin-glazed carrots, falafel, shakshuka, chicken thighs, and stuffed cabbage.
Rounding out Galit’s A-team of hospitality vets is wine director Kristine Muller and bar director Olivia Duncan, alumni of top-tier restaurants Somerset and Nico Osteria, respectively. The wine list is billed as “chef-driven,” and Muller works closely with Engel to feature wines that are biodynamic and organic, from both the Middle East and the Sonoma region. Look for an impressive lineup of by-the-glass pours, including several options not seen anywhere else in Chicago. Duncan echoes those chef-driven sentiments with a cocktail program heavy on Middle Eastern spices and herbs, including spirit-free options. Examples include The Thyme Is Nigh (made with gin, Bifallet thyme liqueur, parsley, and black peppercorn) and Here Lassi Lassi (a creamy blend of rum, mango nectar, orange, black lime, and labneh).
In line with the food and drinks, the decor sings of the Middle East. Working with Blue Star Properties, the restaurant sports a sunny motif reminiscent of Engel’s tenure in Israel. That means lots of blue, green, and tan juxtaposed by brick, a sleek zinc bar top, mosaic glass doors, wood tables, and pendant lighting. In addition to tables and banquettes, Galit also offers a 22-seat private dining room (email email@example.com for deets) and an intimate “kitchen table” that gets guests up close and personal with the culinary team.
Galit is now open Tuesday–Sunday, 5–10:30 p.m. Snag reservations here, and make them fast, because this place is sure to be the hottest ticket in town.