Schwa is one of those rare restaurants that has a larger-than-life legend surrounding it -- the petite, one-room space unceremoniously closed in the fall of 2006 after chef/owner Michael Carlson won Food & Wine magazine's best new chef honors. Schwa's reputation was built by turning the dining experience on its ear -- there were no servers, no sommelier, no wine list. Chefs delivered dishes to the tables, and you brought the wine. Thankfully for foodies everywhere, Carlson revived Schwa, which reopened in early 2008.
Seating just 24 patrons, the Wicker Park restaurant has kept its endearingly quirky facets in tact. The food is imaginative, adventurous and uniquely Carlson. It has been compared to Alinea, Grant Achatz's cutting-edge culinary experiment, and Carlson and Achatz worked together at the now-shuttered Trio. But Schwa is all Carlson, meaning mind-blowing food in a laid-back setting.
And that includes the lenient BYOB policy. A restaurant of Schwa's quality would generally impose a daunting, multi-layered wine list with prices to match. But here, you can bring your own bottle(s) to pair with the set three- and nine-course menus, both of which can be read in advance on the restaurant's Website so you can buy accordingly. (Note: Schwa charges a corkage fee of $2.50 per person.)
Pop into Wine Discount Center's sprawling store on Elston Avenue (located a few blocks north of Schwa) before your hard-won reservation. The knowledgeable staff will help you navigate the selection of far-reaching global offerings to pair with the memorable meal you're about to experience.