Navigating the Pandemic

Navigating the rough seas of the Pandemic has been a challenge for chef Martial Noguier and his wife Laurence, the thoroughly French owners of Bistronomic, a charming restaurant on Wabash, just two blocks north of Chicago Avenue. In the years since the restaurant opened in 2011, Bistronomic has earned a reputation for diversity, with featured dishes running the gamut from humble to haute. As a result, the owners have been able to implement changes during the Pandemic without impinging on their identity. Some of the most important changes have involved carryout.

“Carryout accounted for only a small percentage of our business pre-Pandemic,” Laurence explains. “We quickly sensed where the market was going, and by the time we reopened after the initial shut down, we’d stocked the necessary containers and were busy developing an array of dishes suitable for carryout.”

Dishes that travel well, such as boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin, are well suited for carryout, in contrast to fragile soufflés, intricate sauces, and a host of other marvels of French gastronomy.

The Noguiers soon realized that giving customers the option of ordering dishes portioned for more than one would be a plus, since customers frequently wanted leftovers for lunch or a second dinner. In a further innovation, the restaurant added a selection of prix-fixe, two or three-course dinners to the carryout options. Laurence says the feedback on all of the innovations has been extremely favorable, adding that even with the return of on-site dining, carryout continues to do very well.

Of course, not all of the innovations center on carryout. Bistronomic has also expanded its use of specials, and certain of the best sellers are now offered on specific days. Dover Sole, for example, is frequently served on Tuesdays. The fish is so popular that customers know they have to pre-order as much as a week in advance. And given that the fish is very expensive, the restaurant only orders a few more than they’ve already sold.

Bistronomic’s newsie e-mail also lists carryout specials for the upcoming weekend. Pate en croute joined the line-up on March 16 and Maine lobster bisque ($16) on Thursday, March 17. Bouillabaise, priced at $45 per person, was-on the other hand- featured from Thursday- Sunday. Carryout options are also available for on-site dining.

Not all the specials are about food. A recent innovation, Gypsy Jazz, is featured one Thursday a month (April 28, May 26). And with the return to warmer weather, the heated patio will -once again-be dog friendly. The restaurant also offers a wine club under the direction of sommelier Frank Ferru. The Wine Lover Program ($45) includes two bottles a month, as does the Sommelier Program ($80).

With so much going on, it’s not out of line to ask the Noguiers how they keep up the pace. Maybe it’s in their genes, given that Martial’s from Paris and Laurence from Lyons, arguably the best places in the world to sample French cuisine.

Laurence says their customers share their passion for French food, as well as their enthusiasm for positive changes.

“It’s hard to imagine anything good coming out of the Pandemic,” she adds. “But we’ve learned how to adapt, how to create options that work, both for us and for our customers. To survive, you have to innovate.”

Bistronomic, 840 N. Wabash 312.944.8400
The restaurant serves lunch Tuesday-Friday, brunch Saturdays and Sundays and dinner Tuesdays-Sundays.

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