Crain’s – Billy Dec to open new Sunda in Fulton Market District

The Chicago restaurant operator is leasing space from Sterling Bay on his quest toward nationwide expansion.

Veteran Chicago restaurant operator Billy Dec is set to open another Sunda New Asian location in the Fulton Market District, marking a major step forward in a nationwide expansion of his restaurant brand.

The new Sunda spot will open next spring or summer at 333 N. Green St. Dec is leasing space from Chicago developer Sterling Bay, which moved its headquarters to the newly built 19-story building less than two years ago. Advertising giant WPP Group, professional services company Ernst & Young, social media app TikTok and others also have space in the building. Sunda’s deal means 333 N. Green is now fully leased.

Sunda is a pan-Asian restaurant that draws inspiration from Dec’s travels across Southeast Asia—his mom is Filipino. The first location opened in River North in 2009. For Dec, the expansion into the Fulton Market District means the chance to tap into new trends and a different customer base.

“It’s a different renter, it’s a different visitor, it’s a different clientele. To me, it really falls into the expansion package,” he says. “It’s almost as if it’s a totally new environment.”

Like other restaurants in Chicago, Sunda endured months of indoor dining closures. The location also got looted in the unrest during summer 2020, and some of Dec’s family heirlooms were damaged. A burst pipe around Christmas was the icing on top of a year that left Dec feeling like Sunda was on the brink of closure.

“I almost thought it was over,” he said.

Then calls started coming in from landlords who had lost restaurant tenants in their buildings, and Dec decided to move forward with the expansion. He is working to raise $20 million and open at least seven locations across the country. Chicago is first, and he has also signed a lease in Tampa, Fla. He’s looking at cities such as Dallas, Houston, Denver, Atlanta and Scottsdale, Ariz., as well.

The design of the new Sunda location will be different than the original River North spot, reflecting changes in consumer tastes, Dec said.

The bar will be longer, for example. Cocktails play a bigger role in dining out now than they did a dozen years ago, he said. “You weren’t back then thinking about watching your cocktails (being made) and really thinking about all the ingredients and how they interplay with the food.”

People also like to sit at the bar and charge their phone, and pop in for a quicker tasting of small bites. Design elements will also reflect trends developed during the pandemic, like open air rooms.

The new Sunda’s menu will still feature some of the River North location’s signature items. Sterling Bay CEO Andy Gloor said in news release that Sunda will be the “perfect addition” to the Fulton Market District’s culinary scene.

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Sunda’s Billy Dec Isn’t Done With Chicago

It’s been a few years since restaurant and nightclub owner Billy Dec moved to Nashville, but he hasn’t abandoned his hometown. Dec continues to operate Sunda New Asian in River North, positioning it as a celebrity magnet, attracting diners like Jamie Foxx and Barbara Streisand. 

But now comes news that Dec will open a second Sunda in the city’s restaurant-laden Fulton Market neighborhood. Dec will serve the same mix of Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese food at the new location, pegged for a spring or summer debut at 333 N. Green Street, occupying the ground floor space inside the headquarters of prolific Chicago developer Sterling Bay. 

Other than Taste of the Philippines in Chicago’s French Market food hall, this will be the West Loop and Fulton Market’s only other restaurant for Filipino food.

Dec says the new opening will mark the next step in his bid for national expansion. Reps aren’t ready to reveal where Sunda may appear next, only divulging that Dec intends to bring the brand to multiple cities across the U.S.

Touching on cuisines from a range of Asian countries, offerings will include hits like garlic crab noodles, spicy tuna crispy rice, and sushi, plus a few new submissions from chef and partner Michael Morales. 

Dec, who also operates a Sunda outpost in Nashville, is integrating lessons learned during the pandemic into the 8,400-square-foot space’s design, he told Crain’s. It’ll include open-air spaces and a longer bar than the first restaurant, as patrons have shown an increased interest in cocktails and how they’re made, and will allow room for customers looking to stop in for a quick drink or bite.

For Media inquiries and other info contact Stace@CoactAgency.com