Fine Dining Chef Mike Sheerin Opens Fast-Casual Dumpling Restaurant


Chef Mike Sheerin Announces Hyde Park Location for PACKED, A Fast-Casual Dumpling Restaurant Coming to Chicago in Summer 2015

Celebrated Chicago Chef Partners with Restaurant Operations Veteran to Launch a Reimagined Version of the Classic Dumpling

Chicago, IL — Chicago Chef Mike Sheerin–best known as a classically trained chef who has worked in several of the most acclaimed kitchens in the country (Lutèce, Atlas, Jean-Georges, WD-50, Blackbird, Trenchermen, Cicchetti)–has announced that his upcoming fast-casual project, PACKED, has now found a home in Hyde Park. Sheerin is thrilled to join the recent culinary migration to the neighborhood by securing a 1,596 square foot space at 1321 E. 57th St.

Sheerin, with his signature culinary creativity, is joined in this venture by partner Aaron DiMaria. DiMaria brings over 20 years of experience in restaurant operations management and front-of-house hospitality. Together, the duo presents PACKED: dumplings reimagined–which, as the name suggests, provides a completely unexpected culinary interpretation of the traditional dumpling. With a dedicated emphasis on responsibly-sourced ingredients and the Midwest farmers who provide that product, PACKED is slated to open in the summer of 2015 as a counter service restaurant in Hyde Park–further proving that the neighborhood is one of the more up-and-coming culinary destinations in Chicago.

Between my partner Aaron DiMaria relocating to Bronzeville last year to rehab a historic home and the moves over the last couple of years of other chefs I admire, like Matthias Merges and Jared Wentworth, Hyde Park has really popped onto my radar. I appreciate the community here. There’s definitely a warm, small town charm to the area–but there’s still that big city sophistication and the influences of the University of Chicago. Plus, there’s a cool live music scene, and I can ride my bike to work for most of the year! There’s a lot to be excited about,” Sheerin says.

Spending the past several months experimenting with various cuisines and hosting pop-up engagements throughout Chicago, Sheerin was adamant that his next venture serve as an enduring investment, imbued with the creativity and unique layering of flavors and textures he’s become known for. As Sheerin has earned a reputation for transforming the traditional into the delightfully unexpected, PACKED’s menu of dumplings will be vastly different from the classic Asian style dumpling that might initially come to mind. Sheerin will feature dumplings with ingredients such as Aloe, Rye and Pickled Cauliflower. The outside portion of the dumpling, or the wrapper, will be crafted in house, enclosing unique riffs on a wide range of flavors.

I think the beauty of PACKED is, for me, the fact that we’re taking the high caliber of Sheerin’s cooking and making it approachable enough that people can come in to enjoy it on a regular basis,” says DiMaria. “This unique experience is the confluence of incredible food quality and the peace of mind that comes with responsible sourcing and farming practices. It’s the type of concept that makes perfect sense, but hasn’t been readily available until now.”

After over a decade of consulting on the operations end of the industry in Chicago, DiMaria’s decision to launch his own project was cemented by his awareness of the growing demand for a high quality experience within the fast casual sector. It was reported by Forbes that sales at fast-casual restaurants grew 11% in 2013, which according to the National Restaurant Association, totaled $173.8 billion. At the same time, more than ever before, chefs are feeling a greater obligation to pull diners toward healthier, more responsible cuisine and away from the negative repercussions of traditional fast-food offerings.

As the duo announces the new space, Sheerin and DiMaria emphasize that their strong relationship with local farmers will play an integral role not only in their overall concept, but specifically in their menu offerings, which will vary by season. The farmers’ presence will even be felt in the decor.

This completely new take on the dumpling will come from the fresh direction of an established, lauded chef who has spent his career in upscale establishments. It will bring a new level of quality, seasonality and commitment to local ingredients to the quick-serve sector. In total, PACKED embodies “reimagined” in every respect.