With a goal to pair French Canadian cuisine with a “distinctly Midwestern viewpoint,” Dear Maragret is opening this Friday in Lakeview.
The kitchen will be run by chef Ryan Brosseau, who grew up in Chatham-Kent in Ontario, Canada, which has a sizable French Catholic population. “My grandparents were fluent in French,” says Brosseau. “That was their first language. So all the Sunday dinners and after church food had French influence.”
In fact, the restaurant is named for his grandmother, who loved to include the whole family in her cooking projects.
“Every October, all of my aunts and uncles would come over to make pie crust for tourtiere (a Canadian meat pie),” says Brosseau. “And we’d pickle things from her garden. She always had a big garden.” Along with tourtiere, he’s also going to include putsins, a popular French version of chicken and dumplings that his grandmother loved to make, on the menu.
While he grew up in Canada, Brosseau has spent much of his culinary career in Chicago, working at places like Found in Evanston, Perennial Virant, Le Sud and Table, Donkey & Stick. Other dishes on the opening menu include braised beef shank for two ($48) and a ham roast served with split peas and mixed pickles ($23). The dessert menu also features traditional Canadian desserts like a Nanaimo bar and a butter tart.
This is the first restaurant for owner Lacey Irby, but she’s worked for more than a decade in the industry. She was managing editor of Chef magazine, and worked for the PR firms Wagstaff Worldwide and Polished Pig Media, before starting her own company.
Irby notes that the two had been looking to open a restaurant for over a year, and almost signed a lease in February, less than four weeks before the coronavirus pandemic started. But as the year went on, they decided it was time to move forward. “We thought that maybe there is an opportunity to open a place that is conducive to these times,” says Irby. “We actually built a business plan around not having a dining room.”
Because of the pandemic, restaurants in Chicago still can’t open their dining rooms. So for now Dear Margaret will only offer takeout and delivery. Brosseau designed the opening menu with takeout and delivery in mind, so all of the items should travel and reheat well. “It’s different when you can plate food and place it on the guest’s table 30 seconds later,” admits Brosseau. “I’m purposefully avoiding certain dishes that won’t hold up. I don’t want to create a beautiful dish, put it in a box, and then have it arrive looking not beautiful after 30 minutes in a car.”
While the restaurant was designed for this specific time where takeout and delivery are essential, Irby is genuinely looking forward to the day when guests can eat inside. “In the future, hopefully not too distant, we’ll open the dining room,” says Irby. “We do look forward to when we can welcome people. But for now we’re hoping to bring that level of service to people’s homes.”
Dear Margaret opens this Friday. You can order takeout or delivery through Tock.
2965 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-360-8213, dearmargaretchi.com
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