Before 2003, Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz led very different lives. Katz, a proud product of Canada, had vacated Vancouver back in 1987 to battle it out in the trading pit of the Chicago Board Options Exchange. He later traded in life on the Wall Street of the Windy City for a life more in tune with his interests—namely the bar and live music scene. He operated Otis’s Bar in Lincoln Park before venturing out on his own with Waterloo Tavern in 1993, to the widespread delight of Chicago revelers. By 1992, Illinois native and restaurateur wannabe Boehm had already dropped out of the University of Illinois, having saved enough as a server to open his first eatery in Florida. Boehm followed that first successful attempt with a string of restaurants from Florida to Tennessee—all by the time he was 30.
In 2003, Katz, now a family man, was itching to open his first restaurant, and fire-in-his-belly Boehm had just arrived in Chicago. Fortunately for the Chicago dining scene, the stars aligned: the two met, clicked, and formed the Boka Restaurant Group. Since then, the pair has established five restaurants: Boka (2003), Landmark (2005), Perennial (2008), Girl & the Goat (2010), and GT Fish & Oyster (2011).
Boka Restaurant Group has garnered abundant praise, including multiple accolades for Boka and Perennial from Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine; three-star reviews from the Chicago Tribune for Boka, Perennial, and Girl & the Goat; a Michelin star for Boka in 2010; and a 2011 James Beard nomination for Best New Restaurant for Girl & the Goat.
The group now counts more than 500 employees, has established a new catering company, and looks to open two new properties before the end of 2012. Chicagoans, get your appetites ready.