LINCOLN SQUARE — As the pandemic wears on, many restaurants are trying just about anything to stay afloat.
For the owners of Goosefoot in Lincoln Square, “anything” has meant radically changing the food they offer.
Owners Chris and Nina Nugent opened Goosefoot at 2656 W. Lawrence Ave. in 2011, specializing in fine dining. The $145 multi-course tasting menu at the BYOB restaurant included items like Angus beef with heirloom squash, aigre-doux and beurre noisette; and a diver scallop with lemongrass, coconut and lobster.
But converting that type of cuisine into a takeout format wasn’t feasible for the couple when the state once again banned indoor dining and drinking in October to try to limit the spread of coronavirus. Instead, they’ve launched a takeout-specific menu of comfort food at Goosefoot Food & Wine, 2654 W. Lawrence Ave., the shop they opened next to their restaurant in 2014.
The menu features steak and chicken dinners, as well as individual salads, soups and pints of ice cream.
“Not everybody can afford the prices we had at Goosefoot. Now people that never ate our food before and other neighbors can try it out,” Nina Nugent said.
Two years ago, Chicago Magazine ranked Goosefoot as No. 8 on its list of the city’s best restaurants. Before the pandemic, the spot had a waiting list of reservations.
“The menu showcases classical edge and contemporary artistry,” a Michelin review said.
But the restaurant closed its doors March 14 when the state’s first dining restrictions went into effect to slow the spread of coronavirus. Nina Nugent said the couple didn’t offer takeout during that time and had to dip into loan money to save the business.
“Imagine, three and a half months being closed,” Nugent said. “But before the pandemic we used to have such large revenue despite not selling any alcohol. We made money with just Chris’ food before this, which is remarkable.”
Goosefoot reopened in late June, when the city began allowing limited indoor dining again this summer. The Nugents installed plexiglass dividers between tables, upgraded the air circulation system and added other safety measures to comply with coronavirus safety rules.
But with only 30 seats to start with, the 25 percent capacity limit was a strain on the business, Nina Nugent said. Patio dining wasn’t an option with the narrow sidewalk on that stretch of Lawrence. The restaurant’s rear parking area has dumpsters, preventing the owners from using that space to set up outdoor seating suitable for fine dining.
Instead of closing after the second dining ban, they shifted their menu entirely.
That takeout menu launched Nov. 30 and includes items like a seared, center-cut, 7-ounce beef filet finished with classic steak Diane sauce and served with potato puree, garlic-scented heirloom carrots and broccolini. It includes a choice of soup and dessert for one and costs $44.
“Chris didn’t want to confuse the food from Goosefoot, which is fine dining, with what we’re doing with Goosefoot Food & Wine,” Nugent said. “What we’re offering now is family-style comfort food.”
The takeout menu also includes cheese and charcuterie for two for $16, as well as $6.50 pints of ice cream, among other things.
This takeout menu is how the couple plan to keep their businesses afloat until indoor dining is safe and allowed. But it can be frustrating trying to make it work, they said.
When Nugent heard about Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) flouting the city’s rules by illegally allowing indoor dining at his Ann Sather restaurant, 909 W. Belmont Ave., she was livid.
“For me and my husband, that was a slap in the face. We are trying to be creative and doing whatever we can to survive but also following the rules,” Nugent said. “It’s a very stressful time. But Tunney serving people inside like that, it’s like the rules only apply to normal people like us and not him.”
Fans of Goosefoot can support the couple by ordering food and wine from the couple’s shop online Wednesday-Sunday.
“You put the time you want to pick up your food on the website and you can add some wine or ice cream to the order and it’ll be ready to go when you arrive,” Nugent said.
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