LOGAN SQUARE — Popular Logan Square cafe Cellar Door Provisions is reopening this week after a months-long hiatus, but the restaurant will only serve dinner for the time being.
The Cellar Door reopening Wednesday is a much leaner operation than it was before it closed in late October. To make it through the coronavirus pandemic, owners Ethan Pikas and Tony Bezsylko had to lay off most of their staff and shrink their menu.
The restaurant had a dozen people on staff and now it only has four, Pikas and Bezsylko included. Pikas said the decision to lay off most of their staff was a “very difficult” and “very sad” one to make.
“Our original intention was to retain all of our staff as it existed prior to the pandemic, and that didn’t end up being a possibility financially for us,” Pikas said. “As much as we tried to deny it, the pandemic has really changed what’s feasible for us, at least right now.”
Another big change: Instead of serving pastries during the day and an a la carte menu, the restaurant will only serve fixed meals for dinner 5-7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday
Pikas said they’ve had to simplify their menu because some of their intricately designed seasonal dishes weren’t translating well to takeout.
“It just wasn’t feasible for us. It was confusing,” Pikas said. “I’m hoping that by using the coursed-out, single dinner approach … there [are] less things to be confused by.”
Restaurants across Chicago have had to make painful cuts and pivot their business models to survive the pandemic, all while working to keep employees and customers safe.
While other restaurants ramped up pickup and delivery this fall, Pikas and Bezsylko shut down Cellar Door in hopes of reopening in the future.
The shutdown came after the owners learned an employee of theirs had been potentially exposed to COVID-19. Cellar Door was among several Logan Square spots forced to shut down because of coronavirus.
It was the second time Cellar Door went dark in a matter of months. The owners also closed the restaurant in late March before reopening it in the middle of the summer.
With this week’s reopening, the owners are starting fresh with meals that cost $30-$45. The menu will rotate weekly and, in typical Cellar Door fashion, what’s served will depend on what vegetables and farm products are in season.
The Cellar Door team has worked closely with local farms since opening in 2014 and those relationships will continue to guide the owners and their two staffers.
They’ve also always been focused on using fermentation and other techniques to create unique flavors, and that won’t change, Pikas said.
“It wouldn’t feel like Cellar Door if we didn’t approach it in that matter,” he said.
On the menu this week is pork collar pot roast with peach leaves and fermented napa cabbage; white beans with mushroom sugo, rosemary and garlic; steamed turnips with crushed juniper and preserved lemon; and a whole wheat cannele for dessert. The meals can be paired with bottles of wine selected by neighbor Diversey Wine.
Folks can also bring home Cellar Door’s homemade bread — either just a few slices as it’s typically served at the restaurant, or by the loaf.
Pikas said they plan to stick with this model for the foreseeable future and hope for another Paycheck Protection Program loan from the federal government. They received a loan in the first round and a grant from The LEE Initiative.
“I’m just glad to be back, and I know Tony is, too,” Pikas said. “We hope that folks can find some comfort in some of this food we’re preparing, and I hope to find some comfort in it, too. I feel very fortunate that we even have the ability to reopen, even though it’s under such challenging circumstances.”
To learn more about Cellar Door’s reopening, and to place an order, visit the restaurant’s website.
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