After weathering several months of delays, classically trained Chicago chef Mike Sheerin, and business partner Aaron DiMaria, a self-proclaimed locavore with 20 years of restaurant operations management experience, have opened PACKED, a fast-casual restaurant in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.
Chef Sheerin, executive chef of Embeya and formerly with Lutèce, Atlas, Jean-Georges, WD-50, Blackbird, Trenchermen, and Cicchetti, is widely known for transforming the traditional into the delightfully unexpected, which is the expectation as he takes his high-end kitchen talents to the fast-casual realm. At PACKED, a seasonal menu of dumplings will rotate on a monthly basis and diverge from the classic Asian style that usually comes to mind. Over 90 percent of the seasonal menu’s local ingredients are organic, while the few non-organic ingredients are non-GMO.
"I’ve been blessed with a continued career in full-service restaurants that have been unbelievably kind to me. With PACKED, I was presented with an opportunity that allows me to use my 'cooking life' experiences to further broaden my horizons as a chef in the ever-changing and exciting fast-casual portion of the foodservice industry,” Chef Sheerin says. “We're having a lot of fun learning what we can do with dumplings, and we’ve fallen in love with our nook of the Hyde Park neighborhood."
Crafted with ingredients sourced from Chicago’s corner of the Great Lakes region, the dumpling menu’s selections rotate monthly and include options such as Pastrami with pumpernickel, beer-braised onion, pickled green tomatoes and violet mustard, as well as the vegetarian-friendly Butternut: a squash dumpling with sage, lady apples, a curry wrapper, and balsamic caramel. The menu also includes a section with soup dumplings such as the Posole with braised pork shoulder, pasilla peppers, and hominy, as well as a section of sweet dumplings, such as a Banana dumpling with chocolate, Brazil nuts, nori-peanut butter, and whipped cream.
A significant part of the space pays tribute to PACKED's sustainable ethos with a visual nod to the farmers who supply the restaurant’s responsibly sourced ingredients. The counter-service eatery also uses compostable service-ware, and features a to-go window to accommodate guests looking for a faster, more casual dining option.
“I think the beauty of PACKED is the fact that we’re taking the high caliber of Mike Sheerin’s cooking and making it casual enough that people can come in to enjoy it on a regular basis,” partner Aaron DiMaria says.