Kevin Boehm

Restaurateur

Chicago

Kevin Boehm knew he wanted to be a restaurateur by the time he was 10. And after dropping out of the University of Illinois to open his first restaurant, Lazy Daze Café, in 1992 in Seaside, Florida, he got on-the-job training by opening and selling restaurants. He had four restaurants under his belt before the age of 30. In 2002, Boehm teamed with Rob Katz to form Boka Restaurant Group. The dynamic duo opened 10 Chicago restaurants in less than 10 years, including Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat and Little Goat Diner. The young restaurateur was named “40 Under 40” in Crain’s in 2010, and has passed his introductory sommelier exam. When he’s not coming up with a new chef-driven restaurant, Boehm sits on the board of trustees of the Hope Institute, the largest autism network in the U.S.

  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What are the best bars in Chicago?

    I really like Bernard’s, which is actually in the Waldorf Astoria. I like Untitled. It’s on Kinzie. It’s a cool little speakeasy. It’s dug out; it’s in an old basement spot. Right when you walk in there’s a massive stage in the center of it. During the dinner hours, there’s usually a great jazz band playing. It’s a cool room — a cool, dark room with good food. Love it.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What are the best neighborhoods in Chicago?

    West Loop is ridiculously cool and just getting cooler all the time. They’re building a SoHo House right now just behind Girl and the Goat. And Fulton is going crazy right now. This whole area is going to be amazing. I think everybody who owns property here, all of the developers, have a good sense of what West Loop is and are making sure that the things that are built here have symmetry with the feel of this area.

    And I live in Roscoe Village, so I have to say Roscoe Village, too. It’s great because there are tons of families. It’s a great little area.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What are the best hotels in Chicago?

    Waldorf Astoria Chicago, which used to be The Elysian, is such a cool hotel. From the entrance, that big open European entrance way, to the really interesting design on the inside to the great restaurants and the cool little bar inside of it. I love it.

    I’m a big fan of the Park Hyatt, always have been. I occasionally take a staycation there. Then The Peninsula and the Trump — love them, too.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    When is the best time to visit Chicago?

    It’s obvious, isn’t it? It’s the summertime. We are the greatest city in the world in the summertime. It’s amazing. There’s so much going on. I always say that the weather in Chicago is like a doorperson at a hot nightclub: It keeps all of the riff-raff out. If it was that beautiful all year long, we’d be so overpopulated it’d be unlivable. There are so many more people are here during the summertime. It’s so busy and crazy, but I love it.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What are the best Chicago museums?

    I’m a big art guy — I like the Museum of Contemporary Art. I take my kids to the Field Museum and Museum of Science and Industry. Those are all great.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What are the best things to do in Chicago?

    Wrigley Field — you’ve got to go to Wrigley Field. I’m a huge Cubs fans; it’s awesome. I think that Millennium Park is super cool. The museums are awesome.

    I think that Chicago has the best restaurant scene in America. When you look at the three cities that could all vie for that number one spot — San Francisco, New York, Chicago — and how they’re all different, I just think Chicago is better at the hospitality aspect. I think all three of those cities have amazing restaurants. I think that we’re the best at the way we treat people.

    I love all of the architecture in the city. I think it’s the most gorgeous skyline of any city; so just walk around, take a boat tour or look at the architecture.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Michelle Doucette is now following Kevin Boehm
  • On April 8, 2013
    Hayley Bosch is now following Kevin Boehm
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What are the best places for brunch in Chicago?

    I have to single one out — I love GT Fish & Oyster’s brunch so much. It’s probably my favorite brunch in the city. I know that’s one of my restaurants, but I have to say it.

    I like Meli a lot. Meli is my breakfast- and brunch-of-choice place. It has a couple of locations, but one is right by where I used to live, and it does a great job.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What are the best restaurants in Chicago?

    I love Alinea. I love Next. I can’t say my own because if I single one out, then I’m in trouble with the rest of them. I love all of Paul Kahan and Donnie Madia’s restaurants. They do great work. The Publican, Blackbird and Avec are amazing. I love Kai Zan, which is a new little sushi restaurant in West Town. I love Arami, which is in that same area.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What’s the most difficult part of Kevin Boehm’s job?

    The hours stink. It’s stressful, and it’s always going on. You’re kind of never “off.” My hours have changed throughout the years. I’m in the office very early these days. Thankfully, I’m not out until two in the morning anymore, but it’s a stressful job. We serve like 20,000 meals a week in our restaurants. So within that, there’s going to be problems that arise. You know on a weekly basis that there are going to be problems. They’re always there, and it’s how you handle those problems when they arise.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What does Kevin Boehm love most about his job?

    I love instant feedback, instant gratification. I don’t think there are that many jobs where on a daily basis you get to walk into a place and someone tells you how much they love what you’re doing and your food. It’s a great job where people are constantly telling you how you’re doing — whether it be good or bad. I like instant feedback.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What does Kevin Boehm think makes a successful entrepreneur?

    Number one rule: Don’t enjoy too much of your own party. We throw a party every night, a bunch of people come, we clean it up, we do it again the next day. You can’t enjoy too much of that. You have to be the guy who’s kind of working the party. Work hard. Listen. Surround yourself with people smarter than you are.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    What’s Kevin Boehm’s take on the evolution of fine dining?

    I love the direction it’s going. I think when the economy started to collapse, great chefs started to look at what they were doing and say, “Okay, I don’t need white tablecloths, and I don’t need uptight servers to create a great experience. I can create great food in a casual environment with sharable plates, and less expensive prices.” It’s become more inclusive so everybody can enjoy it. It’s a big part of what our company is. Most of our restaurants are these great chefs doing more casual food in a casual environment with casual prices, but we’re still giving people the same experience.
  • On April 8, 2013
    Kevin Boehm answered the question: Kevin Boehm

    How does Kevin Boehm stay ahead of his competition?

    Keep people around you who disagree with you. I think there are too many people who keep others around them who are constantly agreeing with them. If you take our corporate team — myself, Rob Katz, Ian Goldberg and our great chef-partners Stephanie Izard, Giuseppe Tentori, Paul Virant, Chris Pandel — we have a lot of spirited discussions. Whenever we do anything, I think we sweat every detail. I think that’s the big thing. It’s not just about opening a restaurant with great food; it’s about opening a restaurant that has great food, great design and great hospitality. You don’t get to all of those things if you don’t sweat every single detail.