Dining

Chicago's Most Exciting New Restaurant Is a Tribute to California

Pacific Standard Time is finally open in the River North district
Photos: Brian Willette
Pacific Standard Time in Chicago

Just because you don't live on the West Coast doesn't mean you can't find—or cook—California cuisine that rivals restaurants in the Golden State. Just look to Pacific Standard Time, Chicago's latest opening in the River North district.

It's the first venture from Underscore Hospitality, a new restaurant group from Erling Wu-Bower, the former chef of Nico Osteria who's been nominated multiple times for a James Beard Award, and his business partner, Joshua Tilden. (The restaurant is also in partnership with Paul Kahan, chef/owner of The Publican.)

With its description as a "hearth-driven restaurant inspired by the ingredients and diverse flavors of coastal California," it's no surprise to find that Pacific Standard Time is focused around its two wood-burning ovens, one of which will be entirely devoted to the restaurant's bread program. 

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"I want the hearths to influence the service," Wu-Bower tells the Chicago Tribune. "I want the feeling of sitting around the fire; I want to call out an informal, outdoorsy feeling, even in the middle of the bustling city."

Out of those wood embers come a vegetable- and seafood-focused menu including dishes like roast asparagus with black garlic molasses and crispy brown rice, pork shoulder braised in ramen broth, whole trout with littleneck clams, and Margherita pizza topped with pistachio pesto and Fresno chiles. 

Heading the pastry department is Natalie Saben, who led the dessert program at three-Michelin-starred Grace and is serving huckleberry sundaes with spiced meringue, sunflower cake with strawberry syrup and chocolate mousse with passion fruit and dukkah. Meanwhile, bar manager Scott Stroemer is mixing cocktails like a Paloma with pea-infused tequila and a honeydew-jalapeño shrub.

Pacific Standard Time is currently open for dinner seven days a week, with both brunch and lunch to soon follow.

  • Pacific Standard Time's menu is focused around the restaurant's wood-burning ovens.

  • Wood-roasted baby carrots with onion-tahini puree, almonds and dill.

  • Marinated ahi tuna with chickpea hummus, urfa and mint. 

  • Strawberries with yogurt and hazelnuts (bottom left), burrata with English peas and farro verde (top) and kanpachi aguachile with rhubarb and habanero (bottom right). 

  • Margherita pizza with pistachio pesto.  

  • Sunflower cake with strawberry syrup, chartreuse ice cream and oxalis. 

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