Located on the fringe of Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, it's easy to miss but hard to forget.
Stepping through the storefront entrance, the city dissolves into an intimate world where the artistry of fine cuisine unfolds throughout the evening. The barrier between patron and chef fades. Dinner becomes a night to explore and fully engage the senses.
A fluid menu of vivid courses, crafted by a crew of culinary artists under the direction of Chef Michael Carlson, who work to their own rhythm to re-imagine the possibilities of global, seasonal ingredients. A kitchen where every ingredient is respected and every choice is intentional.
This is Schwa.
Our Philosophy - A restaurant that is part of a new movement; a community of chefs who work collaboratively and share openly. A house with no front or back; a house where chefs are servers, and serving is about creating dialogue. A menu that moves with the seasons; a menu designed to illustrate the diversity of a dish and highlight how one ingredient can be presented in a variety of ways. Taking the unusual and making it enjoyable. Taking the rustic and making it unforgettable.
From the rarest snail roe harvested from the shores of France, to locally-grown Midwestern produce, Schwa is a place to experience food as art.
Chef / Proprietor
Chicagoland native Michael Carlson began his professional training working under Chef Paul Bartolotta at Chicago’s Spiaggia. He then travelled to Europe to work and train, focusing his time working under Valentino Marcattilii at San Domenico in Imola, Italy. Upon returning to Chicago, he was hired at the acclaimed restaurant Trio, where he worked alongside renowned chef, Grant Achatz (now Chef/proprietor of Alinea). He later returned to Europe to work with Heston Blumenthal at the celebrated 3-star restaurant, Fat Duck, in Bray, UK.
In 2005, he made the difficult and fateful decision to turn down the position of sous-chef at Alinea, choosing instead to rent out a small storefront owned by a longtime friend. This experiment birthed Chef Carlson’s now renowned restaurant, Schwa. His artful approach features presenting a diverse arsenal of ingredients in a relaxed, intimate setting. In 2006, he graced the cover of Food & Wine magazine as one of theBest New Chefs that year. In 2007, he won the Jean Banchet Award for rising chef of the year. In 2009, GQ magazine did a much talked about nine-page feature on Schwa and Chef Carlson; it’s cover touting Schwa as “The Most Revolutionary Restaurant In America.” With 2010 came a “Best Chef” nomination from the esteemed James Beard Foundation.
- Age: 35
- Favorite movie: Nightmare Before Christmas
- Listens to: Slayer, Atmosphere, Lily singing "Peter Cottontail"
Chicago native Gaetano Nardulli has been working alongside Chef Carlson since 2008. He trained at Kendall College and has worked in restaurants throughout Chicago with the last being Butter.
- Age: 30
- Favorite movie: Blow
- Listens to: talk radio
Chicagoland native Matt Kerney joined Schwa in 2009. Prior to working at Schwa, Matt worked at Chicago restaurants, Ambria and Zealous.
- Age: 24
- Favorite movie: High Fidelity
- Listens to: Bob Marley, Morphine, Bruce Springsteen
Michigan native Matt Ayala joined Schwa in 2010. He has been cooking professionally since he was 14 and cooked at MOTO before joining Schwa.
- Age: 24
- Favorite movie: Goodfellas
- Listens to: Gangstarr, Beastie Boys, Notorious B.I.G., Rodrigo y Gabriela Radio
Tom Radcliffe has been with Schwa since its opening in 2005, working alongside Chef Carlson to oversee house operations.
- Age: Timeless
- Favorite movie: 300
- Listens to: Kenny G, Sade, NAS
Our History - Chef Michael Carlson opened Schwa in 2005, turning a small 26-seat establishment on the edge of Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood into a restaurant dedicated to fine cuisine without pretense. Schwa continues to garner accolades and has become one of the premiere restaurants in the country.
The spring of 2010 saw a transformation to the Schwa dining room and kitchen. The chef, crew and friends sanded and ebonized floors, sprayed walls and hung a new ceiling. Brothers John and Frank Navin of The Aluminum Group conceptualized the entire re-design from the hand-fashioning of everyday hardware store electrical connectors into chic chrome tipped bulb light sculptures, ebonized black wood floors, ombre walls up to the mylar mirrored floating ceiling.