Though raised in New Jersey, Chef Joel Nickson learned to love the south through visits to his grandparent’s home in North Carolina. At age 15 he began working at Pauline's Passion Pit, a Harlem soul food restaurant. A dozen years later, having amassed a solid cooking background that included Culinary school, stints in elegant San Francisco and New York City restaurants, and terms as food and beverage manager at several large resorts, he opened Wishbone in a storefront on Grand Avenue in July of 1990.
His "southern reconstruction cooking"--Dixie standards like baked bone-in-ham, blackened catfish, and Carolina crab cakes, prepared with a minimum of heavy oils, deep frying, or added sugar--with its mix-and-match menu of side dishes such as sautéed spinach, mashed sweet potatoes, and macaroni and cheese, caught on fast.
Not long after, a second Wishbone was opened in 1992 with 170 seats at 1001 W. Washington-- at a time when Chicago's West Loop seemed an uncharted territory. Wishbone was an early participant in the emergence of the neighborhood from a commercial area to one of the city's culinary hot spots.
In November of 2018, Wishbone relocated after 27 years at 1001 W Washington Blvd. The new home is at 161 N Jefferson St, six blocks east.