Independents Navigate a Crowded Scene

Bistronomic Restaurant

Bistronomic Restaurant is a charming French bistro with a well-priced menu and a white tablecloth ambiance. It’s also one of the only independently owned restaurants in its immediate neighborhood.

the main dining room at Bistronomic

the main dining room at Bistronomic

Martial Noguier, the eight-year- old restaurant’s very French chef/owner says it’s hard for an independent restaurant to compete with the national chains  and local restaurant groups.

Martial Noguier

Martial Noguier

“Like other independents, I don't have a cushion. I have fixed costs-such as rent and salaries- that have to be paid. And to pay them, I have to fill the restaurant. Too many slow nights, and we’re in trouble.”

chicken for two at Bistronomic

chicken for two at Bistronomic

To stay in the public’s eye, he participates in significant events, including the upcoming Food Bowl in mid-August and Chicago Gourmet at the beginning of September. This year, Bistronomic will be hosting a French/ Japanese dinner  Chef Macku Chan (chef/owner of Macku Sushi) on Thursday, August 15 ($85 excluding tax and gratuities).

the winning burger

the winning burger

Bistronomic won the Hamburger Hop that kicks off Chicago Gourmet in both 2016 and 2017, an interesting win for a French bistro that’s better known for its pate and onion soup than it is for its burgers.

duck breast

duck breast

“People want French food when they come to Bistronomic,” Noguier says. “And if they’re coming back for the second or third or tenth time, it’s often because they want to order their favorite dish.”

gnocchi

gnocchi

On a typical night, forty per cent of the diners are repeat customers.To stay current and seasonal, Noguier changes the menu four times a year. Perennial favorites, however, stay on the menu, albeit with seasonal updates.

tuna tatare and country pate

tuna tatare and country pate

“Some customers order the same dish every time they come to the restaurant,” Noguier explains. “Even so, that doesn’t mean you can’t adjust a dish to keep it seasonal.”

the salmon at Bistronomic

the salmon at Bistronomic

Neither does it mean that a classic French dish has to conform to a rigid recipe. Accomplished chefs like Noguier put their own stamp on virtually everything that comes out of the kitchen, so the mussels served at Bistronomic aren’t the same as the mussels served elsewhere.

mussels at Bistronomic

mussels at Bistronomic

Noguier shops at the Green City Market on a regular basis. In addition to looking for the best produce, he notes which produce is available in abundance.

the country pate at Bistronomic

the country pate at Bistronomic

“At the beginning of summer,” he explains, "locally grown produce is scarce, flavorless and expensive. Later in the season, there's an abundance of summer fruits and vegetables. In addition to being tastier, they're also less expensive." 

the chocolate/hazelnut bar

the chocolate/hazelnut bar

Specials are another way to grow the business. Bistronomic, for example, offers a three-course prix-fixe for $39. On Monday and Tuesday nights, the price is reduced to $34. The restaurant also runs specials for most holidays, including Passover, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, and Mother’s Day.

Laurence and Martial Noguier

Laurence and Martial Noguier

In the end, however, the success or failure of an independent restaurant hinges on the quality of the food and the personality of the chef and owner. Bistronomic gets two thumbs up for both.

Bistronomic Restaurant, 840 N. Wabash 312.944.8400

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Sunny Side Up Restaurant

If there was  a contest for the city's favorite meal, brunch on Saturdays and Sundays would easily take top honors. Sunny Side Up Restaurant on Clark Street and on Superior does both, in addition to serving breakfast and lunch the rest of the week.

cinnamon roll pancakes

cinnamon roll pancakes

Owner Nick Sord, 31, is a third generation restaurateur. He says he knew from the beginning that he wanted to follow his father and grandfather's lead and went out on his own before he turned 30.

Owner Nick Sord

"I wasn't sure about the format," he says, "but when I saw the property on Wabash,  I thought it was the perfect setting for breakfast and lunch."

French toast with ham and a maple/apple compote

French toast with ham and a maple/apple compote

Sunny Side Up's menu is loaded with options, some of them simpler than others. There are, of course, the musts: oatmeal,  eggs , toast, waffles, French toast and breakfast potatoes. And then there are the splurges, many of them done with a choice of French toast, pancakes or waffles.

the waffle sandwich made with sweet potato waffles

the waffle sandwich made with sweet potato waffles

You can, for example, partner the base of choice with fresh peaches and cream; fresh bananas, strawberries, chocolate sauce and a topping of whipped cream, nuts and a cherry; or creamy peanut butter, chocolate sauce, and a sprinkle of crunchy corn flakes.

fruit on French toast

fruit on French toast

On the other hand, there's the sweet potato waffle sandwich with avocado, spinach and a fried egg; a yogurt parfait with granola and fresh berries; and a terrific egg white omelet stuffed with spinach, tomato, avocado and feta cheese that's already my dish of choice.

Sunny Side Up also serves  sandwiches, salads, and burgers, including topped with a  beef burger "smothered" in BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, mushrooms, bacon and grilled onions and a Cobb salad made with chicken breast, mixed greens, bacon, avocado, bleu cheese, tomato and a red wine vinaigrette.

With ample portions and a menu that's a people pleaser, it's difficult to imagine anyone leaving hungry. And FYI, Sunny Side Up does refills on both a basic iced tea and a basic iced coffee.

Sunny Side Up Restaurant: 42 E. Superior 312.930.4242. 1028 N. Clark Street 312.967.0777.

Both restaurants are open 8am-3pm daily

 

Small Bites

August is summer at its best. Check out the possibilities and enjoy.

Koi Fine Asian Cuisine & Lounge

On Saturday, August 17th at 1 pm, Koi is holding a Sushi Rolling Class. Participants will have a hands on opportunity to  work with seaweed, sticky rice, and spicy tuna. Lunch and soft drinks are included, and there will also be a cash bar.

Contact events@ticketleap.com for tickets ($25).

Koi Fine Asian Cuisine & Lounge

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The Chicago Firehouse Restaurant

Sundays-Wednesdays from 5pm to 10 pm, The Chicago Firehouse Restaurant is partnering an 8-ounce prime cheese burger with Firehouse fries and beer for $15.  Guinness, Stella Artois, Goose Island 312, Virtue Rose Cider and Bell's Oberon are a few of the options.

The Chicago Firehouse,1401 South Michigan Avenue, 312.786.1401.

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Morton's Steakhouse

On Tuesday, August 13, Morton's The Steakhouse is celebrating National Filet Day with $1 petite filet mignon sandwiches in the bar area. The limit is 12 sandwiches per person.

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Joy District

Joy District is doing the second installment of their District Divas monthly buffet breakfast on Saturday, August 17 from 12pm-3pm. Guests can sample the brunch buffet and mimosa bar ($50) while watching performances by a cast of some of the city's "most glamorous and talented drag entertainers."

Email brunch@joychicago.com to reserve.

Joy District, 112 W. Hubbard Street

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Marshall's Landing

Marshall's Landing in the Merchandise Mart is giving away a pair of tickets to a Chicago Cubs game in partnership with Bell's Brewery through a contest now through Wednesday, August 31.

Every guest who order a Bell's Brewery Oberon Ale at Marshall's Landing  throughout the month of August will receive one punch on a contest punch card. With every six punches, west's will be entered into a final drawing for a pair of Cubs' tickets to a game in September.

Marshall's Landing at theMart

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