I’m sitting on a plane taking a desperately needed 3 day getaway to New Orleans and feeling very melancholy. This is the type of trip that inspires the menus in our restaurants. 15 years ago, when we first changed our gourmet takeaway in the heart of Boystown we began opening early on Sundays. We had recently returned from New Orleans and had met with the folks at Cafe du Monde for instruction on the best way to fry those puffy beauties before popping them and a generous snowfall of powdered sugar into a small paper bag. We’d greet our Lakeview neighbors on Sunday mornings with the smell of Chicory Coffee and send them off, smiling, warm grease-spotted paper bag in hand.
With our success on Food Network, we felt inspired to open our first full service restaurant, HB. And although it has changed hands in the past years I frequently point it out to my son as I take him to school in order to remind both of us how we started.
After our son was born, we took a break from restaurants to allow one of us to stay-home parent. As he entered school we returned with Hearty Restaurant. So proud of Hearty. A warm neighborhood spot that really spoke of who we were and the type of retro comfort food that Dan is passionate about. Remember the Rabbit Corn Dog with Red Ale Syrup? I was able to really expand my cocktail program with Hearty and if you were a regular, you might remember that all vodka martini requests were met with fear from the waiters…”um… Steve’s not going to let you do that” and there I’d be there shaking my cocktail menu and strong-arming you into trying gin again.
In response to the neighborhood’s need of a more casual spot we switched Hearty to SpritzBurger and partnered with our dear friend (what’s that word for ‘friend who is now family’? We don’t have one in English that fits) Gale Gand. What a boon for Lakeview. The renowned Food Network chef at our granite prep table shaking her head. “I’ve got 2 Beard Awards on my kitchen wall and I can’t keep up with the Rice Krispie Treats”. True that…but the Salted Caramel dip…good God.
And now comes news that the better part of our block will be razed for a multi-use complex. We’ve known that this would happen. We are completely prepared for it even if we weren’t sure of the date. But it’s here now and we are faced with our last days hosting Lakeview residents for dinner.
The Hearty Boys kitchen is moving to West Grand with easy access to the expressway and downtown deliveries. We have a huge parking lot and we can load the vans without dodging traffic. Maybe you’ll soon see us in a decent delivery van that doesn’t show war wounds from our narrow one way alley…we can dream. So although there are no changes to our catering business, SpritzBurger and our time as restaurant owners is coming to a close for now.
And here’s the full and honest reason for our decision not to relocate. Family. We work too hard, too many hours…we’re certainly not the only Americans to do that. But we’re blessed in the fact that that Dan and I are able to make a conscious decision to slow it all down. Take Nate to piano lessons. Have the whole family at home at 6:00 at night and institute Taco Tuesday. Go to an outdoor summer movie in Grant Park. Take the dog to the beach. It’s a welcome life change. So, we’re not fully sad. But I can’t help but feel conflicted and melancholy.
So here we are on a plane heading back to the French Quarter. We’ve got three days to reset and sort of mull over the changes we have in the coming month. Luckily, we’ll have chicory coffee and beignets to help us look forward…and back.