Moving to a new city can be daunting for anyone, but being a chef can give you a leg up. Angelina Bastidas, the executive chef of AMK Kitchen Bar (1954 W. Armitage Ave., 773-276-4400), can attest to this. The 26-year-old became the youngest competitor in “Top Chef” history when she signed on for Season 13 of the Bravo show. Since then, she moved from Miami to Chicago and revamped AMK’s menu, putting her own spin on the Bucktown restaurant’s modern American fare. We sat down with the Chicago transplant to find out how she’s getting acquainted and where she’s eating.

Favorite breakfast: “For breakfast or brunch, I head to Tweet (5020 N. Sheridan Road, 773-728-5576). Not only is it affordable, but it’s also right in my neighborhood. They open super early, so I’m in there by 8:30 a.m. if I want to grab a big breakfast. It’s cash only, but that’s OK with me.”

Favorite lunch: “I personally really enjoy Nookies (1746 N. Wells St., 312-337-2454) … their burgers are great.” 

Favorite dinner: “I really like this Korean barbecue spot San Soo Gab San (5247 N. Western Ave., 773-334-1589). [They] close at 2 [a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 1 a.m. on weekdays], so it’s great for a chef or anyone in the industry that gets out late so you can go there after work and get some really good barbecue. The Purple Pig (500 N. Michigan Ave., 312-464-1744) is one spot that I didn’t stop going to for a little bit when I moved here to Chicago.”

When she’s not eating or cooking: “On my time off what I like to do is, first and foremost, not cook. I enjoy running, so I definitely work out. I enjoy going to Millennium Park with my boyfriend and grabbing a movie after. Just being a normal person for a little bit. If I can sneak in a pedicure, it makes the day so much better.”

AMK Kitchen’s Angelina Bastidas (Dan Ghaowi)

Favorite spot for a drink: “I’ve been to a couple bars right by AMK. Jack and Ginger’s (2048 W Armitage Ave., 773-227-6700) is a cool local spot, and a lot of regulars from our restaurant you’ll see over there. If I wanted to be a little more with the scene, I would say Untitled Supper Club (111 W Kinzie St., 312-880-1511) I’ve been there a couple of times. Very good vibes. A little different.”

Best thing about Chicago’s restaurant scene: “If you go to a certain neighborhood, you know you’re going to pick up Ethiopian cuisine and then a few blocks down you can have Mexican or Korean. Having that availability so close to you is not something I’ve seen enough of. In Miami, you pretty much have your American or Latin American cuisine. It’s really hard to find that hidden gem. Here in Chicago, it just offers so much more.”

Next on her list: “One spot that I always hear about is the West Loop. That’s where the majority of the popular restaurants are. It’s not even about competition, it’s more about wanting to see what Chicago has to offer. Miami is still growing in the culinary scene, where I think Chicago is a little more ahead of the game. It makes me hungry for more. I want to keep learning. I want to take advantage of that.” 

 

What to try at AMK: “We just changed the menu a few weeks ago, and one dish in particular is a little different is our braised short rib that we serve with red lentils and yogurt. It has kind of a Middle Eastern feel to it. My general manager [tried it and] said, ‘This feels like home.’ And I love that. I love hitting spots where people from around the neighborhood can come in and have that nostalgic feeling like, ‘Wow, this is exactly like what I had a few years ago [or] what I had as a child.'”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here