LAKEVIEW — Growing up, chef Ryan Brosseau would often help out at his grandparents’ farm.
Located in southwestern Ontario, the farm’s rich soil and climate were great for growing everything from green beans and peas to pumpkins.
“It was a big group effort with all my aunts and uncles,” Brosseau said, recalling picking pears in the fall and strawberries, blueberries and raspberries in the early summer.
“I distinctly remember standing around the kitchen island, rolling out dough and chopping up apples for pie,” Brosseau said. “We had about an acre of land where we grew these crops for our own use.”
Brosseau’s upbringing, along with the family recipes he learned from helping in the kitchen, serve as the inspiration for his new French Canadian restaurant in Lakeview.
Dear Margaret, 2965 N. Lincoln Ave., opened earlier this month and offers a variety of French Canadian-inspired dishes plated “through a Midwestern lens,” said Lacey Irby, owner of the restaurant.
The kitchen is run by Brosseau, who said the restaurant is named after his grandmother, who loved passing down her recipes to the family and including them in her cooking.
Brosseau spent the past year and a half talking to family members and going through his grandmother’s old cookbooks, tweaking the recipes for the restaurant’s opening, he said.
“They sent me a lot of newspaper clippings of recipes she’d collected and her three-ring binder of all her go-to recipes, sorted by type and with notes on how she fixed it,” Brosseau said. “It’s great reference material.”
The restaurant currently only offers takeout and delivery due to the coronavirus pandemic, Irby said, so the initial menu was designed with that in mind.
Dishes use fresh ingredients that are available in-season. The menu includes braised beef shank, charred and smoked carrots, roasted beet salad and tourtiére, a Canadian meat pie.
Desserts include the Nanaimo Bar, which has a graham cracker crumb, coconut and walnut base with a custard icing center and chocolate ganache; a cookie trio, with oatmeal and dried cherry, peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies; and the Canadian Butter Tart, made with maple, dried blueberries and butter in a lard crust.
Prices and the full menu can be viewed online.
“The food is based on a lot of the flavors and dishes that Ryan experienced as a kid in Ontario, and we’re really focused on providing that same warm and welcoming feeling you get at your grandmother’s table,” Irby said.
Dear Margaret is Irby’s first venture as a restaurant owner, but she’s worked in the industry for more than a decade, she said.
Irby previously worked as managing editor of Chef magazine before working for various public relations firms and eventually starting her own PR company.
“Along the way, I just catalogued what success looks like to me, and when I met Ryan a few years ago, we started talking about what mattered to us in running a restaurant,” Irby said. “We aligned completely in that we wanted to create this restaurant on the basis of caring about people, both our guests and our staff.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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