While I gave everything I had every day of the week to all of my staff, vendors, and guests, in the end I found that sustainability - an undying commitment to what that means - wasn't sustainable. While it looked great from the outside, on the inside we faced many challenges. The praise that hangs on my wall and the Internet speaks to my passion, and that will never change.
I could have bought different milk. Different eggs. I could have used non eco-friendly parchment paper. I could sent everything to landfill. I could have used an inferior product. I could have had a Sysco truck deliver my food and have one person work a deep fryer and microwave. I consciously chose to do things one way. Maybe I was stubborn. I was committed to doing what I believed to be the right thing.
Real food takes not just passion, but labor. And these numbers add up. The fact is, I put the same level of ingredients and labor into a sandwich, chips and pickle that my colleagues are putting into a $25 entree. Perhaps we, as a community, are not prepared to take on the challenge of a $15 - $20 lunch ticket, but I know I tried to do it the best way, true to my ideals and focused on creating the best product possible.
Crain's reports that Great Lake (1477 W. Balmoral) is closing its Andersonville location at the end of this month, reportedly due to repair-related gripes with their landlord. Their new location is unknown at this point, but I'm sure it doesn't mean the wait will improve. Additionally, Logan Square's Knew (2556 W. Fullerton), the second act of the former Think, has closed. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, Brand BBQ (2824 W. Armitage) has closed--although the sign in the window says it's just for renovations, I have a feeling that it's for good.
After only four months in business and a trail of mixedreviews, Andersonville's Premise abruptly closed Sunday night to the surprise of its staff; chef Brian Runge told the Reader that Premise had record sales Saturday evening, and less than a week later, the Graham Elliot alum is out of work. LM Bistro has purchased Premise and plans to change the space and menu into a French concept called Brasserie 54 by mid-September. Given the bland meal I had at LM-helmed Troquet a few weeks ago, I imagine Premise's successor should be called The Revolving Door. Le sigh.
Two storefronts with paper signs on the door, two very different outcomes.
Last week the Ravenswood outpost of Bagel on Damen, which opened at 4639 N. Damen in late 2010, had a handwritten note stating that the shop would be closed until Jan. 10 for remodeling. When I stopped by on the 11th, the sign was still up and the restaurant looked deserted -- and there was little sign of a remodel. The next day the sign was gone and the space has been dark ever since. A call to the Bucktown location confirmed that it is permanently closed.
Meanwhile, a handwritten sign also appeared on the door at Asado Coffee, 1432 W. Irving Park Rd., in the last couple weeks. It read, "Asado Coffee is currently reworking the space and experimenting with new roasts. Look for our reopening in the next few weeks." While the note sounded more promising, the paper over the door and windows could have been hiding anything from the specified remodeling to a full tear-out and closure. It wouldn't have been the first time a business closed for good under the guise of a remodel -- see above for a handy example.
Fortunately, updates on Asado's Facebook page show that the remodeling is real, and it's almost complete. They're looking toward a February grand re-opening. Hopefully the changes include more seating for customers. Stay tuned for that.
Did you hear the news? Announced a few days ago in their client newsletter, the beloved Roscoe Village location of The Bleeding Heart Bakery will be moving. You only have a few weeks left to get your fix of the Belmont and Damen Ave store (at 1955 W Belmont), however don't fret too much. They're not moving far. With a new location set to open sometime "this year" at 1351 W. Belmont (what used to be the Paper Boy store location), this new space will be dubbed "The Original Bleeding Heart Bakery". The naming is meant to illustrate the goal of the new space to function as a sort of test kitchen, concocting new and exciting products for the other locations. Clientele will be able to watch pastry construction unfold before their eyes with a completely glassed in kitchen. Can't wait? Well sign up for the newsletter already so you can be the first to hear the news on the official opening (see site for details). That's not enough? Well, hopefully one of their other locations will be sufficient to tide you over while you wait. Find them in West Town (1916 W Chicago Ave Chicago, IL 60622), Oak Park (1010 North Blvd Oak Park, IL 60301), and Elmhurst (116 S York St Elmhurst, IL 60126).
Chicago's food truck fleet grows by two this week, just as news broke that one truck was closing up shop.
Wow Bao, Lettuce Entertain You's popular Asian bun concept, launches its food truck (or van) today at 11:30am at 600 W. Chicago Ave., aka Groupon headquarters. The truck will sell two-bao boxes for $5 -- which seems a little steep since they're $1.49 each in the restaurant. Delivery charge, I suppose. The truck will also sell housemade ginger ale for $3 and bottled water for $1. In a nice twist, it'll take cash or credit. Follow @baomouth for further details.
On Thursday, Oct. 27, the new DucknRoll truck makes its debut with a party from 6 to 8pm in front of Calumet Photo, 1111 N. Cherry St. on Goose Island. The truck starts official lunch service on Monday the 31st, offering up a range of Vietnamese-inspired bánh mí, adzuki bean-cinnamon donuts and mango-lychee salsa. Keep up with it at @ducknrolltruck.
Flourish Bakery will be closing its doors for good at 5pm on Sunday (9/11). The Edgewater bakery cafe will be open during normal business hours the remainder of the week (Monday-Saturday 7:30am-8pm; Sunday 8am-5pm). Unfortunately, due to growing food costs and economic realities, the bakery is no longer able to keep its doors open, despite introducing a direct-to-home fresh bread delivery service and family night dinner events for the neighborhood in the past year. Flourish, you will be sorely missed.
Earwax Cafe has closed again, and this time it's for good.
According to Metromix, the Wicker Park institution, which closed temporarily in February before getting a last-minute reprieve from former Landmark Grill chef Kurt Gutowski, did not open this weekend. A source tells the Wicker Park-Bucktown Insider's Guide that employees were informed of the closure last Wednesday. The cafe's published phone number has been disconnected; a sign on the door simply says "closed" and directs inquiries to the cafe's email address.
I stopped by this afternoon to check on the cafe, and spoke briefly with a real estate agent who was showing the property. She did not want to speak on the record, but confirmed that the cafe is closed and that the owner, Cindy Murray, is seeking tenants to take over the space. An email to the agent and Murray for more information has not yet received a reply. The Wicker Park/Bucktown RedEye blog reports that emplyee paychecks allegedly started bouncing back in June.
It's sad to see Earwax Cafe fade away. One of the few remaining vestiges of "Old" Wicker Park, it was key to lending the neighborhood its artsy feel. Vegetarian diners will no doubt find Native Foods Cafe, which opened last weekend just down the block, a suitable if more corporate substitute for Earwax's tasty veggie and vegan options -- but it feels a little like saying that fans of a favorite indie boutique will find Urban Outfitters an acceptable alternative.
Owning a restaurant is tough. Really, really tough, in fact. And apparently it isn't necessarily any easier for a wealthy restaurateur like Jerry Kleiner, either. If you're not familiar, Kleiner is the man behind Carnivale, Gioco and the now-defunct 33 Club, which very quietly closed its doors this month. A note on its website reads: "It is with regret that The 33 Club announces it has closed for business. We thank all of our patrons for their loyalty and support. We enjoyed serving you and wish you all the best. We hope to see you again down the road."
From their Facebook page: "We have to start by saying Thank You. We have had the most incredible fans during our run with Kith and Kin and closing the doors was not an easy thing to do. As of May 24th, 2011 we have officially closed Kith and Kin. We appreciate all of your loyal patronage and it truly was an amazing experience to serve you." You can read the whole sad, sordid tale on Eater.
Humboldt Park's Indian-ish and veggie-friendly BYOB spot, Treat Restaurant, will be closing on April 3rd. I'll admit to being a bit sad about this - I've always enjoyed their Daal, Poori & Eggs for brunch, as I'm still unable to master making daal at home.
Barely six months after opening its Old Town location, Palermo Bakery currently has a "For Lease" sign hanging sadly in its window. It sits next to the similarly short-lived tapas restaurant Eivissa, also vacant. Rather than becoming the next success story on North Wells Street, Palermo instead serves as a cautionary tale, speaking to the inherent challenge of opening a business in the heart of Old Town. While the warm summer months team with tourists and locals alike, the winter doldrums can be long and stagnant. If these businesses don't have a plan to, well, weather the weather, then failure isn't just likely, it's assured. Two-month old Kilwins, take heed, or you'll be the next to add to the growing inventory of Old Town real estate.
May Street Market, one of my favorite local, seasonal spots in West Town, is bidding us farewell this Saturday. All our best to Chef Alex Cheswick. Personally, I'll never forget that mini lavender cupcake. Any other good memories, folks?
The space at 2515 North California is unlucky these days. Rustico Grill, which opened last summer in the wake of the short-lived Rustik, has closed its doors as abruptly as its predecessor. A small, handwritten sign on the window spotted over the weekend included instructions for employees to pick up their last paycheck. Yikes.
I moved to the Edgewater neighborhood in 2007 and have had fun exploring and discovering all sorts of gems like Gino's North, Moody's Pub, Ras Dashen, The Sovereign, the Holzkopf Meat Market, and Standee's.
Regardless of what the sign states, Standee's isn't a restaurant. It's not a diner. It's a greasy spoon, and in the neighborhood, it's one hell of an establishment. With the faux wood paneling, old skool Coco-Cola light fixtures, the faded inkjet printed specials above the back counter, and the brick patterned linoleum, the place exudes a feeling of shabby good-naturedness.
It's the kind of place that your dad would take you. It's the kind of place that terrifies suburbanites. You can see it all here: Loyola students nursing cups of coffee while studying. Folks staggering in from the Granville Anvil and The Sovereign sauced to the gills. Last Halloween I saw one flamboyant young man mince in wearing a mesh top and angel's wings seeking change for a $10 bill, then try to con the waitress by claiming she shortchanged him.
And it's all in our neighborhood. At least until the end of the year.
Pause Café has apparently been sold. The venerable coffee shop on Berwyn closed over the weekend and will reopen as Kitchen Sink Café (1107 w. Berwyn) in early December. The new owners, Jeff and Ally, are former Pause Cafe baristas and plan on keeping many of the things that made Pause a great spot, they will continue to serve Metropolis Coffee and offer free wifi for customers. Jeff and Ally plan on stepping up the food menu with gourmet sandwiches and panini, some breakfast items, fresh salads, hot soups and fruit smoothies. The shop its self will be getting a makeover, most of the décor was being sold off during a weekend garage sale, yet some items remain such as the old phone booth, e-mail if interested.
After a successful two-and-a-half years, River North restaurant Aigre Doux will be closing effective today. According to a press release, owners and chefs Mohammad Islam and Malika Ameen decided to close Aigre Doux in order to spend more time with their children; however, Ameen will run a custom-order pastries, cakes and catering business (if you need more of her signature Sticky Toffee Pudding). You can follow them through Twitter .
Logan Square's Rustik was kind of a crapshoot of a restaurant. The dimly lit and cozy space was out of an Aspen ski lodge, but the "upscale comfort" food (I hate that concept) they served fluctuated in its quality (although they had a German butter cake on their dessert menu that was worth the visit alone). The place never seemed to be truly busy.
In late May, Rustik abruptly closed, with a sign posted on its door promising a reopening in mid-June; that date was scratched out on the sign and moved up to July 15. That date came and went, too. Now there's a sign on the window stating that Rustik will reopen as Rustico Grill in late August, and reportedly the new space will be serving Spanish fare, with involvement from a partner of Mixteco Grill.
Vella Cafe, the popular brunch and lunch place under the Western Blue Line stop, is closing on Sunday, August 23. The restaurant's lease is up at the end of August, and Sara Voden said she and co-owner Melissa Yen have decided to move on. Voden wouldn't go into details about their future plans, other than to say that each will be going her separate way.
There will be no special event to mark Vella's closing, although Voden said, "we will do one last pizza supper on August 14. We'll be sending out an announcement to people on our email list."
Longtime Hyde Park restaurant Dixie Kitchen will be closing June 7. Dixie Kitchen's Lansing and Evanston locations will remain open, but all is not lost for Hyde Park residents in search of Dixie Kitchen's food: owner Carol Andresen will be transferring some DK recipes to neighboring Calypso Kitchen, which she also owns. President Obama appeared on a 2001 episode of "Check, Please!" to sing its praises, although the footage was shelved because producers thought Obama "was too polished and professional and dominated the show." Well, he moved on to better media opportunities.
Le Lan and Soul, its sister restaurant in Clarendon Hills, have closed, effective immediately. In a statement, owner Howard Davis said, "We had to close due to a downturn in business that we attribute to the current economic situation. We appreciate all of the great effort our staff made over the years in creating very high quality restaurants and we are grateful to all of our customers who supported us over the years."
According to the press announcement, Le Lan's chef, Chad Starling, has not yet announced his plans. The restaurant opened in 2004 under the helm of Bill Kim, now chef/owner of Urban Belly.
Mambo Grill, a River North restaurant of Pan-Latin cuisine, will apparently be closing temporarily. You might think that it's the economy, but in this case, it isn't. The owner, Susan Fresca, says that they were forced to close the door of this 14-year-old restaurant, currently at 421 N. Clark, because they couldn't get a 90-day lease extension from the owner of the building while the restaurant prepares to relocate to 410 N. Wells in summer. Frustrated Frasca says, "Restaurants are closing right and left and Mambo's sales are up 5% from last year. We are rocking and now we have to temporally close until the new space at 410 N. Wells is complete and operational."
While the restaurant will reopen in a larger space in summer, about three quarters of its employees will be temporarily laid off on March 31, when the restaurant close. (The rest will be absorbed by Kinzie Chophouse, which is owned by the same company as the Mambo Grill.) If you are a dedicated fan, make reservation for your last-before-the-move dinner at 312-467-9797 through March 31.
Last week, it was announced that Charlie Trotter's Elysian Hotel restaurant project had been cancelled. Then on Saturday, the Loop location of Trotter's To Go (in the Equinox Fitness at 200 W. Monroe Street) changed hands. The new café is still serving a few Trotter's To Go dishes right now, but not for long; the location is going to become another outpost of the Toronto-based rice bowl and soup emporium Freshii in a few months, according to café staff. You can still go to the original Lincoln Park location, but it's sad that such a delicious Loop lunch option is now gone.
Starbucks announced today that it's closing 300 more stores and laying off 6,000 workers. No word yet on which Chicago stores are closing, if any, but we'll keep you posted. Follow local blog Starbucks Gossip for employee reactions and more news.
We've also learned that local chain Intelligentsia has changed the type of chocolate it's using in its mochas and hot chocolate, and the new stuff is not vegan. There has been no official announcement, but baristas have been telling customers as they order as a precaution. Vegans, consider yourself warned!
Cru Cafe & Wine Bar is closing its doors next Saturday, Jan. 24, due to the "economic climate," according to owner Debbie Sharpe. If you're in the market for higher-end wines, the cafe will be selling off some of their better bottles this week.
The space will be closed for three weeks for renovations and re-open as a Feast Restaurant + Bar, to complement The Goddess and Grocer next door. A new chef will be announced on Monday.
In related news, Feast Restaurant + Bar and The Goddess and Grocer are expanding to Lincoln Square at 4743 N. Lincoln Ave., right near the fountain at Giddings Plaza. Both are expected to open sometime around June. Feast will seat 120 people indoors, with sidewalk seating for 80 in good weather.
An inside source tells us that Orange on Harrison, which announced it was closing back in September and then never did, really will be closing after Sunday's brunch service. The owners plan to open a new Orange outpost near Fullerton and Clark in March.