| November 2, 2014 | People
When “Food Buddha” Rodelio Aglibot isn’t racing between his three Chicago restaurants, he finds sanctuary in his near West Side neighborhood.
Aglibot loves artisanal, handcrafted Big Shoulders coffee, which recently arrived in River West.
Rodelio Aglibot’s roots may be decidedly West Coast, but over the past several years this Hawaii-and California-raised chef has been embraced by Chicago foodies as one of their own. After successfully launching and overseeing River North hot spot Sunda for Rockit Ranch productions, Aglibot has now emerged as a force in his own right, with two hit restaurants—e+o Food and Drink and Yum Cha—already under his belt. Now, Aglibot has partnered with local broadcast personalities, including Fox Chicago’s Lou Canellis, Kip Lewis of Comcast SportsNet, and Ryan Baker of CBS2 Chicago, to bring his appealing Asian-inflected fare to Reverie, a sports-bar concept with a focus on elevated cuisine (think Korean-inspired short ribs with pickled vegetables). After long evenings shuttling between the restaurants—occasionally via scooter—Aglibot retreats to his loft in River West, a neighborhood that, he says, fits his on-the-go lifestyle to a T. As he readied for Reverie’s recent opening, the chef shared with Michigan Avenue some of his favorite places within his adopted ’hood.
"About three years ago, I moved back from New York, and we were opening our restaurant out in the suburbs: Earth + Ocean in Mount Prospect. I needed to look for a place. I’m a city boy—I didn’t want to be too far away from downtown, but I also needed freeway access. I have an engineering background, so I was strategizing what would make the most sense for me. And River West has the best of both worlds: It’s practically downtown, and it has freeway access. I’m just north of Chicago on Milwaukee Avenue, and it’s perfect for me logistically. I can hear the Blue Line run underneath me, so I can take that out to the airport when I need to. It has everything I need; I don’t see myself anywhere else right now.
“I love that Big Shoulders Coffee has opened up in the neighborhood. I’ve become friends with the owner, so I like to go down and grab a cup of coffee there and walk around. It’s artisanal and handcrafted, and draws a creative clientele. It’s more of a gathering place; it’s not just about the coffee itself.
Eckhart Park boasts a jungle gym and baseball diamond.
“I also enjoy Eckhart Park, just on the other side of the freeway. I do an outdoor workout once a week, and I’m around that park just enjoying it a lot. It’s simple; it’s a neighborhood park, and it reminds me of the park I grew up with back in California. It’s not that big, but it has baseball diamonds and jungle gyms.
The tiny Matchbox bar has been serving classic cocktails at Ogden and Milwaukee Avenues for more than 75 years
“Windy City Café—I definitely have breakfast there. I like their corned beef hash. I’m a purist; I think that hash needs to have a nice amount of crispiness to it, and not too much potato. There’s a nice balance with the corned beef. The atmosphere is plain and simple—they’re not trying to be anything more than a neighborhood breakfast and lunch joint. I’m not a chef that reviews or judges other restaurants. Most places I go into I just enjoy for the fact that I’m craving a dish, or I don’t want to cook. Even with all the different foods I cook, I still eat Spam and all the same things I grew up with as a kid. I enjoy different things, but if I had to choose a favorite kind of restaurant, it’d be a diner. I just like a simple chicken-fried steak and eggs; it always puts a smile on my face.
“My hobby outside of cooking is definitely playing golf. For one, it’s about being outdoors, and it also teaches me to be in the moment. So I go to Proline Golf a lot to get my clubs re-gripped and hit a few golf balls. It’s a golf shop that has nets in the back, where you can take some of the demo clubs and hit, and then you see the latest toys and whatnot there as well.
Sweet potato potstickers at veggie favorite Green Zebra.
“And then there’s Matchbox, which is a place I always take my friends who’ve never been to Chicago to grab a cocktail. It’s great to see people’s faces when they realize it’s so small—it’s called Matchbox for a reason. It’s a quintessential cocktail bar that’s unpretentious. I also go to Green Zebra; it’s probably the only vegetarian restaurant in the country that I enjoy. I’m always satisfied after a meal there; I don’t crave a steak or piece of fish afterward. It’s so creative. I will tell you, vegetarian chefs have to be so much more creative with imparting flavor, with cooking techniques, with texture, to get someone like me to go in and eat it and enjoy it. I go there and I just get inspired by the things they do with vegetables that I never would have thought of.”
photography by rachel oftedahl (big shoulders); chicago park district (eckhart); getty images (matchbox);
January 4, 2019