Collage of food photos and headshot of Chef CJ at Ema

This Mediterranean restaurant showcases Chef CJ Jacobson’s lighter California-style of cooking is officially open at 74 W. Illinois in Chicago’s River North. Ēma (which translates to mother in Hebrew) dishes out a menu of spreads and mezze. If checking out cuisine from the Top Chef Duel’s winner and Intro’s first chef-in-residence isn’t enough to get you excited, here are six reasons why you should definitely come check out Ēma:

Interior dining room shot at Ema restaurant

Because Mediterranean cooking is so hot right now.
This style of cooking reflects the way we believe people like to eat today; simply prepared dishes with lots of veggies.

Want to add a little Mediterranean-style to your at-home cooking rotation? Chef CJ says, “The most important things to have are good olive oil, parsley, yogurt and lemons. The spices that I generally like to use are North African spices like cumin, fennel seed and coriander.”

Vegetable kebobs and sweet corn risotto from Ema

Because sharing is caring, folks.
What’s mezze? Thanks for asking! Mezze are Mediterranean small plates meant to be shared. Some mezze highlights: House-Made Stracciatella with tomatoes, basil, yarrow and California olive oil, Crispy Broccoli with black garlic dashi broth, Watermelon Gazpacho, Lamb Kefta Kebabs and Market Vegetable Kebabs, just to name a few favorites.

Gazpacho soup and fresh cheese with tomatoes from Ema

Because veggies are more than just a side dish here.
A large portion of the menu is vegetable focused, and we’re pumped about it. Some seasonal highlights: English Peas with house yogurt, jalapeño, mint and blackberry-sumac granita and the Double-Roasted Beets with pomegranate molasses and chopped herbs. The vegetable dishes will be ever-changing based on the seasonal produce that Chef CJ sources.

Frozen green yogurt with peas, blackberry and blueberry from Ema

“Throughout my travels, I fell in love with the simplistic beauty of terroir and ingredient-driven food. Much of this inspiration is seen throughout the menu with our careful sourcing and mindful presentation,” – says, CJ Jacobson.

Because of Ēma’s house-baked bread, dips and spreads.
The house-made bread is a cross between pita and naan and is baked fresh daily. It’s brushed with extra virgin olive oil and zaatar spice. Now take that crispy, yet chewy goodness and dip it in one of our house-made dips and spreads like the Spicy Hummus or the Avocado & Sweet Pea.

Hummus with vegetables from Ema

Because even the vino hails from the Mediterranean coastline.
The wine program at Ēma parallels the cuisine, in that it showcases wines from Mediterranean coastlines and islands, in addition to light Mediterranean-style wines from California. Developed by Lettuce Entertain You’s Wine Director, Ryan Arnold, guests can expect sips exclusive to Ēma, like Massayah from Lebanon, Fontanavigna Pallegrello from the coast of Campania, and other unique bottles from Morocco, Croatia, Greece, Italy and Corisca.

Because if you’re in a hurry, you can grab-and-go at Rotisserie Ēma.
Ēma shares its kitchen with Rotisserie Ēma (opening later this month), a quick, casual counter serving chef-prepared salads, rotisserie chicken and house-made frozen Greek yogurt. Guests can expect fresh options featuring ancient grains like wheat berries, freekeh and farro, and salads like Mixed Greens with turmeric-ginger vinaigrette and Rotisserie Kale with preserved lemon vinaigrette.

Dining room and bar at Ema

For more information or to make a reservation, visit us at or follow Ēma on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and for an inside-the-kitchen look at recipe testing with Chef CJ follow him on Instagram at @bigceej. Click here to make your reservation at Ema.