Underground dining in Chicago not so underground anymore

Two couples strolled down a white stone sidewalk in Logan Square, each gripping a bottle of wine by the neck. They were smartly dressed, professional types, and though the couples didn’t know each other, they recognized quickly that they were headed toward the same spot — the same secret spot.

The day before, they had received an e-mail that provided a time and a place. They were headed to an apartment for dinner; they had paid for the meal weeks before, $55 a head. It was a residential parking zone, and so they left their cars a street or two away and headed toward a modest, two-story house in the middle of the block. The last minutes of the setting sun cast a soft light on the blossoming branches that hung over the street. Birds chirped. Two girls played catch, and their softball made a lazy arc, then smacked against a crack in the sidewalk and veered toward the feet of one of the men. He stepped around the darting ball, widening his eyes and lifting a leg, holding his bottle above his head, a bad imitation of a tightrope walker keeping balance.

That’s as edgy, daring, or strange as Sunday Dinner got.

Sunday Dinner, a supper-club, sorta-private-sorta-public dinner party held many times a month (and sometimes even on Sundays) by Kendall College graduates Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp, like many so-called underground restaurants, began with an air of the illicit. Cikowski was doing an internship at a tiny restaurant in the Rhone Valley in France when she received a newspaper clip about the underground dining scene in Europe — about one-night-only unlicensed supper clubs, sometimes run by professional chefs, sometimes hopeful amateurs, operating like speakeasies. She made a mental note to test the idea in Chicago.

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