Top celebrity hangouts of '13: Sunda at No. 4

The “Top Celebrity Hangouts of 2013” list continues this week with a very familiar name to those who have been following the rankings the past few years. Whereas No. 5, Siena Tavern, is a newcomer (it opened in February), the No. 4 hot spot on the list has made the top five every year since I started my rankings in 2010.

This year’s rankings, based on star power and number of sightings, will count down each week to No. 1 on Dec. 20. Here is No. 4 on the list: Sunda.

Opened: 2009

Spotted: Lady Gaga, Mark Wahlberg, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Derek Jeter, Marcus Mumford, Jimmy Buffett, Michael Bay, Johnny Galecki, Zoe Kravitz, Billy Corgan, Sophia Bush, Emmy Rossum, David Schwimmer, Mike Ditka, Maggie Q, Mike Posner, Muse, Miles Teller, Kris Humphries, Ali Fedotowsky, Jesse Spencer

Regulars: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews

Owners: Rockit Ranch Productions, owners of The Underground, Rockit Bar & Grill, Ay Chiwowa and Rockit Burger Bar.

Back story: “My partners and I really love new Asian (cuisine) — modern takes on Asian dishes,” said Rockit Ranch CEO Billy Dec. “We wanted upscale modern Asian food that really didn’t exist in Chicago at the time. When we open something, we try to fill a void.”

Draw: To win over celebs, you need to win over the city first, according to Dec: “You have to earn the respect of the city first to get that momentum. The city won’t (recommend your restaurant) if you don’t have good food and good service.” Dec also pointed out that many of the celebs who visit Sunda are friends, relationships he and partners Arturo Gomez and Brad Young have developed during their many years in the industry.

VIP section: Celebs often sit at the table known as “Billy’s table.” It's right beside the large piece of art hanging against the east wall. The restaurant also has a more secluded dining section in the back and a private dining room upstairs.

Discount: “I’ll send out gifts, just to expose them to new items the chef has created or whatever is seasonal,” Dec said. “Or like when (Olympic swimmer) Ryan Lochte came in (in 2012) and we made him that gold medallion (out of sushi) — things like that. A play off of whatever is going on.”

Endorsement: Patrick Kane gets spotted around Chicago more than any other celeb, so I asked the Blackhawks star to name his favorite restaurant in the city. “Sunda,” said Kane. “I tend to like sushi a little more the past few years.”

Sample tweet: “Incredible food celebrating an incredible night! @sunda” — Sophia Bush

Dish: “Barbra Streisand loves the garlic noodles,” Dec said. “It’s funny — that would not be in the top half of our most-sold items.”

Phil Vettel's restaurant review: 3 stars

Impact: If you’re one of the nearly-35,000 people who follow Dec on Twitter, you know how important a celeb clientele is to him. He frequently tweets photos of himself with stars who visit his venues and retweets what they had to say about his venues. “I think people have emotional reactions to things they love,” Dec said. “If they love that celebrity (they see here), they’ll have an emotional reaction to everything they’re getting here. It becomes sort of an additional added value that makes the experience more memorable and exciting.” Dec also sees some value in celebs’ ability to influence others. “It’s about sharing,” he said. “If (celebs) share their experience with others, that’s great. But I can’t say a celeb with a ton of followers is better than a person who works in the building across the street that influences people who work there.”

Future outlook: Sunda is no longer the new kid on the block, but you wouldn’t know it from the trendy and famous clientele that continues to fill the restaurant up. How much longer can it stay trendy in an always-changing scene? It depends, in part, if Dec continues to send his famous pals to Sunda or to Bottlefork — the New-American restaurant he and his partners are opening up next year with former Allium chef Kevin Hickey. One other thing to keep an eye on is the growing popularity among celebs of fellow Asian restaurant Jellyfish in the Gold Coast. Still, there aren’t many entrepreneurs better at courting celebs than Dec, so expect to see his presence in these rankings for years to come, whether it’s with Sunda or another spot.

2012 ranking: 2

2011 ranking: 1

2010 ranking: 1 | Twitter @TribLuis

For more celeb news and sightings in Chicago, go to

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Group to Park District: Build DuSable Park

    Group to Park District: Build DuSable Park

    Where Lake Michigan meets the Chicago River is three acres of overgrown weeds and shrubs. It is referred to by some as a "ghost park" because it is hidden in plain sight.

  • Rejoice! Adele's new album is rumored to arrive this fall

    Rejoice! Adele's new album is rumored to arrive this fall

    There's a fire starting in my heart and it's making me realize it's been kind of a while since Adele released an album. Her last full-length "21" dropped in 2011 and I barely remember that year it feels so long ago. But now, there's some good news to fill our recently Adele-less lives and it's...

  • Chicago rappers Probcause and Saba team up on 'M.I.A.'

    Chicago rappers Probcause and Saba team up on 'M.I.A.'

    Welcome to RedEye's "Song of the Day," an ongoing feature where music reporter Josh Terry or another RedEye staff member highlights something they're listening to. Some days the track will be new, and some days it will be old. No matter what, each offering is something you should check out. Check...

  • Trump vows never to eat Oreos again, citing move from Chicago to Mexico

    Trump vows never to eat Oreos again, citing move from Chicago to Mexico

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump repeated his claim Tuesday evening that he would stop eating Oreos, citing the cookie maker's decision to close a plant in Chicago and move it to Mexico.

  • Let's talk about this new Justin Bieber song 'What Do You Mean?'

    Let's talk about this new Justin Bieber song 'What Do You Mean?'

    Don't get me wrong, Justin Bieber is still really embarrassing. He's the young pop star who recently said something only a 21-year-old would say, "Now being 21, and going through some hardships, I think you can hear that in my vocals." This is a guy who, last year at a charity gala benefiting AIDS...

  • Illinois lottery winners have to wait for payout due to budget impasse

    Illinois lottery winners have to wait for payout due to budget impasse

    After years of struggling financially, Susan Rick thought things were looking up when her boyfriend won $250,000 from the Illinois Lottery last month. She could stop working seven days a week, maybe fix up the house and take a trip to Minnesota to visit her daughter.