The Making of a Restaurant

Friday, March 23, 2001

If we could get a hold of this technology, we'd be the hit of the neighborhood.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Yet Another Possible Location:

There is a vacant building at Broadway and Winona, just north of the Lakeview Lounge, that has long caught my eye. Today I took a closer look.

Its mostly made of brick, garnished with the Germanic brown-and-white paneling common to older buildings in the neighborhood. A great wrap-around marquee says no more than "Restaurant." The second floor has a gorgeous rounded corner that looms over the sidewalk, and on the third floor is a turret with porthole windows. There is ample patio space.

But this is the best part: High atop the east wall jut the remnants of an ancient Schlitz logo. The building must have been one of Chicago's many tied houses, just like the Schubas building. Although I don't foresee our place becoming a bar or beergarden, there would be glory in a similar restoration. (I figure it would cost no more than $500,000 to buy the building, maybe $1 million more for restoration. Once my investment portfolio pays dividends, this should be well within reach.)

In addition to walls literally thick with history, the building has a decent location, just a few blocks from the Green Mill. Indeed, I am surprised that, other than a few places around Argyle Street, there aren't any mid-scale restaurants in the heart of Uptown. The suburbanites who come for Patricia Barber want a place with a table cloth and a wine list. We could be this place. (Not that we'd go out of our way to participate in or encourage gentrification. We'd be sensitive neighbors.)

A major drawback is its location on Broadway, a busy thoroughfare. This stretch is particularly anti-pedestrian, littered with strip malls and a car wash, and right across Winona is a Burger King with a busy drive-thru.

One a scale of one to three "Location!"s, I rate it a two.

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We could distinguish ourselves by being the only place in town that makes change in golden dollars.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2001

One of the quickest ways people judge the quality of a restaurant is how occupied the place looks from the outside. A small percentage of tables filled on the inside translates, to the casual observer on the outside, to a place not worth visiting. It's a superficial judgement, to be sure, but it's a fact of the business. Fortunately, not everyone uses this logic, for if they did, no one would ever enter our restaurant. (Unless we employed shills to sit at tables all day pretending to eat. [Hmmm, that might not be a bad idea. Mental note: come back to that idea later.])

As a temporary remedy to this problem, we should start out with a very small number of tables. Like, ten. The fewer tables, the more crowded it'll look when one of them gets filled. And the less likely an indecisive diner will pass us by. Later, after we survive the empty dining room stigma -- which could take months, if not years -- we can add more tables to accomodate the growing clientele.

The backlash to this idea is, of course, that we become too successful and demand overcomes supply. This would be a glorious problem to be burdened with, and I think we'll be able to deal with if and when the times comes.
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