Lincoln Park is getting a new restaurant. At Mundano, the restaurant aims to lead with its values-driven team, who is focused on developing and maintaining a positive restaurant culture while still offering an impressive, evolving New American menu.
“We want Mundano to be that go-to spot that comes to mind as the perfect place to bring your family and friends, for either a special occasion or a comfortable restaurant experience for any day of the week,” says Ash Abu-Taleb, co-owner of Mundano with his brother, Toni, both longtime Chicago restaurant industry veterans.
Mundano opens July 1 for both indoor and outdoor dining, featuring a 70-seat patio wrapping around the north and west sides of the building. Just three days later for the 4th of July holiday, Executive Chef Ross Henke will host a daytime BBQ, grilling out on that patio and inviting the neighborhood to celebrate, as well as offering picnic and grill kits to take to the park across the street.
Henke’s New American menu blends a variety of influences and cooking techniques, with noticeable nods to his culinary background at Chicago restaurants, including Quiote, The Publican and Publican Quality Meats.
“When the restaurant shutdowns happened in March, we had barely been open for three weeks, not even enough time to get our feet wet,” remarks Henke. “We’re viewing this as our true grand opening. We can’t wait to welcome many of our neighbors down the street and across the entire city that didn’t get a chance to come in before.”
The menu features entrees including a Pork Terrine with rhubarb mostarda, dill-pickled jalapeno relish, and “Chicago Polish”-style onions or the Dan Dan Noodles with lamb chorizo, chile morita and broccoli rabe. Vegetables share the spotlight as well in dishes such as Sungold Tomatoes with strawberry nuoc cham and avocado and Grilled & Raw Radishes with mole spice and whipped crema. Henke and Executive Pastry Chef Kim Janusz collaborate on a number of savory dishes including Daily Focaccia with salsa macha and Wisconsin pecorino and the Savory Churros with manchego cheese and herbs.
Weekend brunch offerings will offer sweet and savory items, as well as traditionalists and exploratory selecdtions. For sweet, opt for a Dulce Seeded Sticky Bun, Housemade Granola or Banana Bread with fermented honey, or for savory, go for the Green Shakshuka with Maitake mushrooms, Summer Squash Guanciale Salad with chimichurri, or Chilaquiles with lamb chorizo.
The dessert menu from Janusz includes a fennel and absinthe Cinco Leches Cake with strawberry and rhubarb and a Chocolate Ganache Tart with toasted bay leaf, sour cherries and cashew buttercream. She moved to Chicago in 2018 to help Dana Cree open Pretty Cool Ice Cream and offers a number of frozen treats for summer as well. Her take on shave ice is the Coconut Raspado, served with tapioca, seasonal fruit, melon sorbet and coconut sap, and housemade Raw Honey Ice Cream with Pecorino cake, tomato raisins, honeycomb and hoja santa.
A snack menu will be available on weekends from 2 to 5 p.m. between brunch and dinner, with dips like hummus and salsa, bites such as marinated olives and Marcona almonds, and all the accouterments — for the late-risers who just made it to the Green City Market across the street.
For those who prefer to dine in the park, Henke and his team, including sous chefs Alex Gonzalez and Chris Schwellenbach, are offering Picnic Kits and Grill Kits via Tock. The picnic kits include focaccia with serrano pepper and everything-spice cream cheese, a variety of cheeses and meats with accouterments, pumpkin seed hummus, house pickles, olives and salty-sweet cookies. The grill kits feature a choice of ribs — a half slab or cauliflower steaks — elotes fundido, hummus, broccoli & barley salad, watermelon with lime and tajin and butterscotch pudding cup.
Beyond food and service, Mundano has built by an infrastructure of policies and guidelines intended to create an inclusive workplace. General Manager Trista Baker founded the Restaurant Culture Association in 2018 — a local organization formed to address sexual harassment in the industry by assisting restaurant and bar owners with tools and structures to prevent it — and has set to work on adopting those learnings and more to create a healthy atmosphere for the Mundano team and their guests.
“Our philosophy revolves around the idea that everyone makes mistakes and if we are able to create an environment where people feel safe to be vocal when their personal boundaries are crossed, then there is no need for defensiveness,” says Baker. “Having your attention brought to harm that you are causing is a gift. It can be emotionally laborious for the person experiencing the harm and should be taken with immense gratitude.”
Mundano’s policies for staff start with the interview process and extend to its employee handbook, which is a living document. Beyond just being open to feedback, they have instituted structures that empower employees to come forward with policies they wish to see implemented. This allows for the growth of the restaurant as a whole, working towards their cultivation of an inclusive environment with respect for individual boundaries. Mundano provides continued education to staff members including anti-sexual harassment, bystander intervention, and anti-racist training, and policies avoid any prejudiced language, such as in definitions of employee dress codes and appearance.
Manager meetings are open to all employees, providing more transparency and an opportunity for growth. The social causes that Mundano supports are staff-driven and open to feedback as well; employees are encouraged to share their activism or organizations they have a connection to with the team. Guests will also notice gender-neutral restrooms that are all handicapped accessible with baby changing stations.
Starting July 1, Mundano hours are 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.