Relish The Moment


Nomad Luxuries typographic image of the brand "relish".

                Chicago, in my opinion is the food capital of the U.S. and rightfully so. With fusion restaurants, pop-up dining and even a grilled cheese bar, there’s something to indulge in everyone’s tastes. With that being said, I absolutely love when a new restaurant or concept pops up on the food scene and fortunately for NoMad Luxuries, I had the chance to catch up with Julia from Relish Underground Dining.

                While the underground dining scene is becoming wildly popular in the city, Julia Pham has created a warm and inviting atmosphere in an urban location all the while focusing on how food brings us together. Relish not only creates an exciting evening with delicious food, but also educates its guests about local food and where it all comes from. Julia tells us more about her concept and how it is to break bread with eight complete strangers…

NL: Tell us a bit about Relish Underground Dining. How did the concept come about?

Relish: Relish is an underground restaurant that revolves around local, sustainable, organic food. Communal dinners are held monthly, and range from $25-$40. Private dinners can be arranged as well.

After I’d watched “Food, Inc.” three years ago, I became very confused as to what I should eat, and where I should buy my food, until I came across the Andersonville Farmer’s Market in Chicago. I walked there after work every Wednesday, and chatted with the farmers about agriculture. Building a relationship with farmers made me realize that the only way to make change in the food industry is to support local agriculture. I knew I had a long way to go before I could open my own restaurant, so four months ago; I made the decision to turn my apartment into a space where I can host dinners, and link people to where their food comes from.

NL: What inspires your menu selections for each dinner?

Relish: I try my best to utilize what’s in season, as well as what farmers have. I really enjoy cooking healthy comfort food, so I try to give a unique, vegetable-heavy, seasonal twist on classics from many cuisines. In December, I will be taking a backseat in the kitchen and featuring a good friend of mine, Hac Tran, as the chef. He will be cooking traditional Vietnamese dishes with local ingredients to stay within the theme of Relish.

NL: How’s the vibe when eight (8) strangers meet for the first time and break bread?

I think it’s just as exciting to the diners as it is for me to meet everyone. Everyone’s a little nervous at first, but once they are seated with some food and wine, the conversations begin and everyone relaxes a lot more. It’s a new experience for most, so they don’t really know what to expect, but once they get here, they realize that it’s not just some stuffy fine-dining restaurant–it’s a home and a space to meet new people and eat some good food.

NL: What direction would like to see Relish take?


Relish: I’m a bit torn between a restaurant and a catering company. Relish itself will eventually move on to becoming a pop-up restaurant, but five years from now, it would be awesome to have a restaurant space to enhance the Relish dining experience.

NL: If you could eat one meal for the rest of time, what would you indulge in?

I have to stick to my roots and say pho ga, which is Vietnamese chicken noodle soup. It’s typically served in a large bowl with rich broth spiced with star anise, roasted ginger, cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, and clove, with rice noodles, shredded chicken, and fresh herbs. I like mine really spicy and tangy, so I add a lot of Sriracha and fresh lime. It’s incredibly comforting!

Nomad Luxuries food photo of a vegetable dish waiting to be eaten.

{Vegetarian entree, with roasted zucchini and eggplant}

Nomad Luxuries close up photo of chicken lollipops with a raspberry sauce. { Chicken lollipops with rasberry sauce }


    With guest chefs and healthy and delicious comfort food, Relish has become the condiment of choice, if you will. Not only is Relish completely affordable but it’s also educational and a great way to meet new foodie faces. Think of Julia as your creative best friend who loves to entertain.  You’ll never have to eat alone again!

Get eating!



Photos courtesy of Relish Underground Dining