A French gourmet restaurant learns to take away on the North Shore

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In 2019, after 15 years in the northern suburb of Winnetka, chef Michael Lachowicz found himself at a crossroads, and he decided to divide his French bistro, Restaurant Michael, into three entities that shared a kitchen: the noisy brasserie Bark, its more formal brother, Silencieux. , and the sanctuary of high gastronomy Georges Trois.

“I believe you have to modify the classics to suit the current palate,” says Lachowicz. “Otherwise, you live in an archaic world. No one wants to eat a meal that they are going to feel in their stomach for three days. My audience has changed so we had to change the menu.

Lachowicz in the kitchen

Lachowicz refers to young people who had left town for the suburbs and harbored little nostalgia for the days when suburban restaurants like Le Francais – the upscale Wheeling restaurant he ran – rivaled the fine dining downtown. city.

At first, the decision seemed the right one: business was going well and Georges Trois won the 2019 Jean Banchet award for restaurant of the year. And then in March 2020, ten months after the reopening, the pandemic struck, Illinois cut indoor dining, and Lachowicz had to relearn how to adjust classic French cuisine, this time in the age of dishes to. to take with.

He started the delivery service of Aboyer – Italian meatloaf and beef, as those were the only portable foods the foodie specialist knew how to prepare. He closed Silent permanently and George Trois temporarily as he considered how to adjust his menus to appeal to customers with different expectations. The experimentation continues: last week, he unveiled a new menu at Aboyer that makes room for both French classics like coq au vin and American comfort foods like chicken wings.

a white paneled dining room with white tablecloths, a bar cart and a fireplace

The dining room of Georges Trois.

a dining room with wooden tables, bar area and wall fresco

The dining room at Aboyer

Chicken wings aren’t usually found in French restaurants, nor are quesadillas, although quesadillas show the same attention to ingredients and preparation as the rest of the menu: Aboyer’s are filled with made Oaxacan cheese. on the spot. McDonald’s is not French, argues Lachowicz, but the French still eat it. “My experience shows me that customers are more comfortable knowing that we have an eye on what’s going on with food right now,” he says. And if he can use the same inventory to create multiple preparations, why not? So now there are two snail dishes on the menu, a garlic and Pernod starter and a Roquefort and Bordeaux starter.

He hasn’t abandoned the classics, however: the standards of the old Michael’s menu, such as coq au vin and foie gras, now have their own special section on the Bark menu, “Les Classiques Michael’s”. Georges Trois, meanwhile, has reopened without major changes and retains its seasonal eight-course tasting menu.

While the pandemic forced him to evolve in the kitchen, Lachowicz also had to reassess his marketing strategy. The classically trained chef was reluctant to embrace social media. He preferred to let his kitchen do the talking. But since hiring a social media expert to manage the Georges Trois group’s accounts, he has decided the effort was worth it and has preached the value of Instagram with the zeal of new converts. “Managing social media is a job and a skill,” he says. “Managing yourself is like representing yourself in court in a murder trial. Young people are the ones we need to reach, and they’re on Instagram. All of my bad behavior came from fear.

a burger and fries

liver and meatballs at Georges Trois

Meanwhile, Aboyer and Georges Trois are no longer the only French restaurants in Winnetka. Ballyhoo Hospitality’s new Pomeroy Bistro recently opened just a mile and a half away, with Chef Jason Paskewitz heading the kitchen. Lachowicz is happy to have the company. “I’m glad Pomeroy is here,” he said. “We need more high-caliber restaurants on the North Shore. I cannot raise the flag on my own. My arms are getting tired.

Discover some of the dishes from the Georges Trois tasting menu below.

To bark and Georges Three, 64 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, open 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday; 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Reservations available via Knock.

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