While he's only been heading the kitchen for the last six-plus months at Duchamp, Allen Sternweiler has taken temporary leave to work on opening Butcher and the Burger, an upscale, fast-casual create-your-own burger joint in Lincoln Park.
Shooting for an early June opening, the 30-seat Butcher and the Burger will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and will also cater to people who want to take away, allowing them to pick up prepared (but raw) burgers, meat loaf and meatballs to cook at home, on a picnic or wherever. But if you eat in, the concept is simple: pick your protein, select your toppings and eat. Butcher and the Burger will have eight to 10 different types of ground meat (beef, chicken, pork, turkey, game, etc.) and fish (salmon, tuna, mahi mahi, shrimp). It'll also offer a vegetable product.
Sternweiler added that one of their key products will be an old school Midwest cube steak, which will also find its way onto the breakfast menu, alongside breakfast burgers (with an egg on top, natch); steak and eggs; egg sandwiches and even fresh beignets. They'll also do coffee and espresso, but not so much in the way of pancakes. "I'm not a big panake, waffle, crepe guy," Sternweiler said. "I'd eat at burger at 7 o' clock in the morning and I can't be the only one."
Butcher and the Burger will have a cheese of the month program, working with different local cheese farmers from areas around Illinois. For toppings, they plan on giving away the basics (ketchup, mustard, cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc), but will also offer items like foie gras, truffled mayo, bacon and avocado for a small up-charge. "We want to keep it simple so the average college kid can come in and eat," he said. The spot is just down the street from DePaul.
The approximately 1,200 square-foot space will be modeled after a 1950s butcher shop, complete with the refrigerated meat case up front displaying all the different proteins patrons can choose. It won't offer alcohol, but will have bottled gourmet sodas, sparkling water, possibly root beer on tap and housemade frozen custard. And they'll source ingredients locally and naturally whenever possible; that includes cleaning supplies and paper products.
Meanwhile, Duchamp sous chef Aaron Lirette has taken over the kitchen there and it's up in the air whether Sternweiler will return to the Bucktown restaurant since he was initially hired as a consultant. He said he may continue to focus his attention on the burger joint and there is discussion to open more, possibly in Chicago, but they're also looking to maybe open one to two more spots in other markets around the country.
"I may filter back in [to Duchamp] after we open," he said. "I may never go back. I'm not sure yet. That's a decision the owners of Duchamp are trying to figure out. There's no hard feeling or animosity."
UPDATE: After going to press, Sternweiler called to reiterate that he's not, in fact, presently leaving Duchamp. He's still consulting there while working on the opening of Butcher and the Burger and is in the process of determining the amount of time he will spend at Duchamp during the opening of his new restaurant.