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The Making of a Restaurant

February 21, 2001

We're two guys, Luke and Sandy, toying with the idea of opening a restaurant five to ten years from now. We sort of feel like two children building a mighty fortress from couch pillows -- ambition surpassed only by silliness -- so we haven't told many people about this log. Consider yourself lucky.

This all started in fall 2000, when Luke started fleshing out a flurry of crackpot ideas: Bring minor league baseball to urban Chicago. Be a newspaper baron. Build a real estate empire. Go to law school. Unfortunately, each of these ideas required Luke to win the lottery or, as in the last example, win the lottery and be much, much smarter.

Then came February 2001. In the span of a week, Luke had two very good meals at two very good Chicago restaurants: The Dellwood Pickle and La Cumbamba. In each case, the quality of the food was matched by the quality of the experience: intimate settings, personal attention from the proprietors, and an overall sense of neighborhood charm.

As he was at this point a little dissatisfied with his current job, the restaurants and their stories got him thinking, and his foremost thought was this: "I could see myself being very happy running a restaurant like these."

At the end of the week, he went on a four-hour bus ride to Madison, Wisc., during which he started writing down ideas for a restaurant. When he returned, he shared some of them with Sandy, and invited Sandy to be his partner in the enterprise.

"I don't know whether you're serious or not," Sandy said, "but this is a fabulous idea."

"I don't know either," Luke said, "but I'm glad you like it."

"Let's do a weblog to keep track of our ideas," Sandy said.

"This is a fabulous idea," Luke said. "If we are able to average just one idea a day, even if nine in ten are bunk, by the time we're ready to launch our restaurant, five or more years from now, we will have assembled at least 182 good ideas. Who could fail with so many good ideas?"

And this is how "The Making of a Restaurant" came to be. We have no idea whether this enterprise will ever pass from the imaginary to the real, from the ridiculous to the sublime. Check back in five years.

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