Photos by David Raine Photography, courtesy of Cellar Door Provisions.

The RundownChicago

Everything You Need to Know About Logan Square Darling Cellar Door Provisions


A decade in and Cellar Door Provisions continues to transform. 

In some ways, this is out of necessity. When CDP first opened in February of 2014, its owners, Ethan Pikas and Tony Bezsylko, quickly became known for their bread program and ever-changing menus. Guests would come in for morning coffee and pastries, hang around for lunch, and eventually swing by for natural wine to accompany their very Midwestern meals at dinner. The buzz, lines, and praise grew; Pikas eventually garnered two James Beard Awards. Then the pandemic happened. Bezsylko had kids and moved away. And Pikas had some decisions to make.

The pandemic forced CDP to close in late 2021. When it reopened the following August, Pikas had transformed the intimate corner in Logan Square into a more elegant room, with a minimalist aesthetic. This allowed for more tables in addition to a beautiful long wooden bar, while also showcasing its expanded natural wine collection. 

Today (like previously), the Mediterranean-influenced menu continues to transform weekly, if not daily, depending on ingredients. Instead of sourcing rigidly hyper-local, Pikas has allowed himself some grace when it comes to certain ingredients, like olive oil. But he and his small team still vigilantly make their own butter and porridge bread, fish sauce, vinegar, amino acids, miso, and other fermented foods. Yes, there are animal proteins, but Pikas leans toward cooking with seafood. And you’ll find a smaller, well-organized menu that gets updated on the website often — so you’ll almost always know what to expect.

What else should you know before visiting the newly revamped CDP? Read on.

So, is it a wine bar or a bistro?

Well, both. While there’s a big focus on natural wine (more on that in a minute), Pikas hesitates to call CDP a wine bar. “We’re closer to a bistro that is highly focused on selling natural wine,” he says. So you can make a reservation for dinner, or simply grab a spot at the 10-seat bar, where they save space for walk-ins. It’s fair to say that CDP has an easy-going European wine bar feel, with dark mood lighting, a nice glow emanating from the back bar, and shadows streaming in as people walk by in front of the full-length windows.

While the menu changes often, the plating is always beautiful.
While the menu changes often, the plating is always beautiful.

The menu changes weekly … and sometimes daily.

Not having a walk-in cooler would prove challenging for many restaurants, but CDP looks at their lack of one as a bonus. It allows Pikas and his team to make the most of fresh, seasonal ingredients and to make changes to the menu weekly, or even on the fly during the week. 

Some might consider CDP a “new American” restaurant, but Pikas finds that term doesn’t hold a lot of value. Instead, you’ll find focused dishes that are prepared simply yet with depth of flavor, with Spanish or Italian flair and Asian ingredients folded into the mix. You may see pici (a pasta shape akin to a thick spaghetti) simply prepared with hazelnuts, lemon, and parm. Or a tuna crudo softly floating in yellow pepper leche de tigre with elderberry capers. Or a coriander seed-brushed, skin-on pork loin in a pig’s head broth with Mission figs. What rarely comes off the menu? The juicy burger, though toppings may vary. (Right now it has caramelized onions, pickles, and a caper aioli on a housemade bun.) 

Expect to see more seafood, especially in winter

With less abundance of local vegetables in colder months, Pikas turns to seafood. It allows him to fill in those produce voids and add more variance to the menu. Unlike meat (expect offal on the menu, too), cooking seafood requires a gentler approach, with lighter ingredients to accompany it. Plus, it’s just delicious. “Honestly, having a nice glass of wine and crudo is a lovely way to start a meal,” Pikas says.

Do. Not. Skip. Bread service!
Do. Not. Skip. Bread service!

Always order the bread and butter

If you’re still asking if you have to pay for bread, just stop and order it. Especially here. The rustic country bread comes out warm and is served with a silky cultured butter that begs to be slathered into all of the bread’s nooks and crannies. But remember — and this is hard — to not eat it all too quickly, lest you order something (perhaps the burrata with figs) that you’ll definitely want to mop up with said bread later on. 

Natural wine is on order here

The wine program at CDP has always leaned more natural. It doesn’t hurt that one of the city’s best natural-focused wine shops, Diversey Wine, is next door, and shares a door in the back of the restaurant for easy flow. Pikas admits that in the past, they haven’t always done the best job of promoting their wine offerings, but now two dedicated front of house staffers — Jackson Mann and Sara Macall — are both very well versed in the list. With the exception of a few bottles from California, most hail from Europe. You may find a high-acid, fruity grolleau from the Loire Valley, a juicy and spritely skin-contact chenin blanc/xarel-lo blend from northern Spain, or a light frizzante malvasia from Emilia-Romagna, Italy — and so much more. 

The list reflects how CDP prepares their food, which is why the wine and food pair so well together. “There are wine connoisseurs who always want their Burgundy to taste the same, but that’s not the style of food we offer, and I want the wine to reflect that too,” Pikas says. 

Good things come to those who wait

We shouldn’t have to remind you restaurants, while busy, are still somewhat recovering from the pandemic. They may be shorter staffed. Your favorite dish may not be on the menu tonight because, well, sometimes ingredients aren’t available. This is all especially true at CDP. It’s a tight staff: it’s usually just Pikas and one other cook in the kitchen, while Mann and Macall run the floor. And remember earlier where we said they don’t have a walk-in? Well, that means they don’t prepare heaps of dishes for each service. If you see something on the website that looks delicious and they’re out of it, try something new. The beauty of all of this is knowing that a serious amount of care goes into everything that CDP does.

So settle in, order a glass of wine, and allow yourself to relax into the experience — you won’t regret it.

Ari Bendersky, a lifestyle journalist specializing in food, wine, spirits, and travel, is the author of Something Glorious with Ari Bendersky on Substack. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.