Sunday Dinner Club: Get on the List

Sunday Dinner Club is a delicious mystery that foodies around Chicago are trying to crack.

SDC is a strictly word-of-mouth situation, and that’s the way owner and chefs Christine Cikowski and Josh Kulp like it. But it’s hard to keep something this terrific on the down low.

My New Obsession
What is Sunday Dinner, exactly? It began in 2005 as a small, pop-up dining club for lucky friends and family, held on Sundays because that’s when they weren’t working their day jobs (Cikowski at Blackbird, Kulp at Tweet). Clearly, they love to cook, because what better way to spend your only day off from an intense, high-pressure shift on the line than to strap on an apron and get back to work?

Eventually, they realized that they had a good thing going, and now this word-of-mouth business has over 3000 people on the email list, and the dinners sell out quickly.

I’ve been four times (in the last four months, so I guess I’m a wee bit obsessed) and each menu has been a revelation in flavor, filled with market-fresh, seasonal produce and locally sourced meats and dairy. Cikowski and Kulp have a personal relationship with each of their suppliers, and that translates to the plate.

Unique and Entertaining
It’s easy to see why. The experience is fun and very unique. When the monthly themed menu strikes your fancy, you make a reservation for one of the days offered and pay in advance via PayPal. Following emailed instructions, you show up to the dinner, held in one of the chef’s homes, carrying whatever wine or beer you fancy for the evening (it’s BYOB).

Three tables of eight are set for dinner, and the seating is communal. We’ve sat with a fairly diverse group of foodies from all over Chicagoland. The staff is brought out for introductions, and Cikowski and Kulp tell the backstory of Sunday dinner, along with the provenance of each course. It’s a full evening’s entertainment.

The menu for June’s Italian Dinner featured:

  • A lovely antipasto with Rapini and Beet Greens with Pecan Pesto, Fried and Fresh Zucchini with Pickled Sun Gold Tomatoes and Anchovy Mayonnaise, and Shaved Mortadella with Cherry Balsamic
  • Tender Handmade Cavatelli with Spring Peas and Onions, Mint, Sheep’s Milk Cheese, Herbed Bread Crumbs and Fresh Cream
  • Savory Grilled Poussin and Italian Sausage with Spicy Tomato Sauce and a kick ass Sarvecchio Cheese Garlic Bread
  • Luscious Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Glaze, garnished with Organic Strawberries and Fresh Basil

Clearly it involves serious eating, but with menus ranging from $55-65 per person, all-inclusive, it’s a tremendous value.

The Menus are Works of Art – Literally!
One of my favorite aspects of Sunday Dinner is the physical menu itself. Cikowski and Kulp have partnered with Chicago graphic artists Jen Mayer and Chris Jennings, who create whimsical menus for each month’s feast inspired by the theme. The Italian Dinner was printed on a tomato can label, complete with menu facts, ingredients and purveyors. May’s Fried Chicken Dinner was printed on an adorable placemat; July’s Spanish Vegetarian menu became a bandana.

About that fried chicken. It is – and I know these are fighting words – the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, flawlessly brined and seasoned, crisped to perfection, and served with a side of soft honey butter to drag each delectable piece through on the way to your mouth. This stuff is worthy of one of Marjie Killeen’s Sex and the Suburbs columns!

The SDC chefs, along with business partners Mayer and Jennings, are hoping to open a Honey Butter Fried Chicken freestanding restaurant in the near future, so you’ll be able to experience it for yourself.

Where Do I Find Them?
You can catch SDC at Saturday’s Green City Market in Lincoln Park through October where they serve their equally remarkable burgers to great acclaim, selling out each week. That’s one way to get on their mailing list. Another way is to email me at [email protected] and I’ll recommend you to SDC. It’s a hot ticket but MIB can help you be a part of it!