Christine Cikowski is busy. When she’s not cooking for her guests at Sunday Dinner Club, she’s planning the imminent opening of her restaurant, Honey Butter Fried Chicken. We love her because she feeds us; the fact that she’s insanely funny is a bonus. Read on to learn about her spirit city, eating habits, and pet fantasies.
Name: Christine Cikowski
Occupation: Chef/owner of Sunday Dinner Club and Honey Butter Fried Chicken
Neighborhood: Logan Square (home), Avondale (work)
Your Instagram handle is CookieStartswithC. Name your favorite cookie.
You know, the handle is more a reference to Cookie Monster himself. I used to play his song over and over again on my plastic Fisher-Price record player when I was a kid. That said, I do love me some cookies. Reigning champ — the pecan maple tea cookies at Floriole Cafe & Bakery.
You’re one half of Sunday Dinner Club. If you could create any club in the world (high-school style), what would it be and who would be allowed in?
The Eating with Hands Club. Utensils just get in the way. Pick up that chicken leg and put it in your mouth.
Chefs are notorious for eating on the go. When you do sit down for a meal on days off, what are your go-tos?
If I don’t go to Lula Cafe once a week, pangs of withdrawal set in. I love La Sirena Clandestina — every time I go there, it’s a three-hour visit to flavor country. It feels less like a restaurant and more like eating in someone’s home. Occasionally, I’ll sneak into The Publican by myself and just order oysters or mussels, sit quietly, and enjoy the simple splendor.
What do you and the SDC folks listen to while you cook?
Our playlists span a wide range. Amy (our sous chef) and I try to get Josh (co-owner) to listen to our bands — he likes The National, so we are making progress. An old favorite is “Oh Sherrie” radio on Pandora, but we’ve recently discovered the delights of Tesla radio. And we all sing along.
We see you at Green City Market weekly. Why do you shop there (other than the hope of running into us)?
There is no better place in Chicago to buy the best produce, meats, and dairy. So quality is a factor for sure. Seasonal goods are always the freshest and most inspiring; ingredients change every week. But really, it’s about being a part of a farmer/chef community. We’ve been buying from some GCM farmers for nearly a decade. We’ve watched their kids grow up; we’ve eaten in their homes. It’s family.
We hear Portland, Oregon, is your spirit city. What can’t you miss when you’re there?
Ned Ludd. Jason French (chef) makes the most amazing food in a wood-burning oven. Annie’s Donut Shop for old-fashioneds. Apizza Scholls for (what else?) pizza. Clyde Common is consistently great. And I’m a sucker for Pok Pok, even though a lot of people say it’s not as good as it used to be. I say BS — those chicken wings are delicious and the khao soi warms the heart every time.
Tell us your fantasy meal, start to finish:
If I could just have a limitless bowl of frites with aioli, I’d be a happy woman.
Give us one unknown tidbit about your soon-to-be-opened spot, Honey Butter Fried Chicken.
We are toying with the idea of serving cornbread instead of biscuits. But we go back and forth about it. Stay tuned.
Funniest thing that has ever happened at SDC:
A crazy girl once snuck in the back door to use our bathroom. Although, that was more weird than funny — but we laugh about it now. One time, our friends brought Josh a pillow with his face printed on it as a joke. That had people rolling on the floor.
You are a dog lover (and hopeful dog owner — one day!). When you do get your new best friend, what will his/her name be?
I tend to give pets old people names. I can imagine a situation where I would name a dog Otis or Raymond or Mildred. (Also, Google “old people names.” I think my name is actually considered to be creeping into old people name territory. Hilarious.)
Is chicken the new pork?
Chicken is the new black.
Would you rather give up dairy or give up meat?
Ugh. This is a terrible question. I guess dairy? But I love cheese. But I love steak. I can’t pick. I won’t.
What’s in your fridge?
Truthfully: about 100 condiments, three six-packs of beer, two bunches of celery, duck fat, a dozen eggs, Greek yogurt, chicken stock, and some leftover-from-family-meal fried rice. Good grief.
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Photo: Tyler Mallory / Courtesy of Christine Cikowski