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Ex-Batter & Berries Chef Returns to Lincoln Park to Run a Neighborhood Icon

Chef Derek Rylon’s new landing spot may be surprising

Derek Rylon is back in Lincoln Park.
Nick Fochtman
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Up for sale for more than a year, Frances’ Deli, a Lincoln Park favorite for decades, has a new owner and a new chef with big brunch news. Chris Haris, an attorney whose family runs Cardozo’s Pub — a 39-year-old bar near City Hall in the Loop — took over the deli two weeks ago. He’s brought a friend. Derek Rylon, who wowed crowds as chef at Batter & Berries, is Frances’ new executive chef and is revamping the morning offerings at 2552 N. Clark Street.

Frances’ has been around in one form or the other for 80 years and started as a traditional Jewish deli. Rylon’s addition is big news for a restaurant whose future was in question as it remained up for sale. Fans of Frances’ massive deli sandwiches shouldn’t worry. The chef will apply a few tweaks — a new dipping sauce, for example — but old favorites won’t be going away. Frances’ breakfast options were kind of basic, Haris said, and to expect a big upgrade. Rylon is bringing in his French toasts and waffle recipes.

“We’re going after the brunch crowd,” Haris said.

Good Afternoon! We would like to introduce our new Executive Chef and one of our new owners Chef Derek Rylon to Frances’. Chef Derek Rylon is the former and original Executive Chef from Batter & Berries and the current Executive Chef at Love on the Blu. Many Chicagoans may be familiar with his coveted breakfast which includes his famous French toast flights. Below is a sneak peak video on a new flavor he’s added to his original flight which already includes, strawberry, lemon and blueberry. Featured below is Caramel Apple! Starting tomorrow Rylon’s rolling out a limited menu which will include some of his famous French toast flavors!

Posted by Frances' Deli on Friday, May 11, 2018

Rylon gives them a chance to develop a following, as he made many fans at Batter & Berries, which opened in 2012. Lines flowed over the weekends on Lincoln Avenue with customers waiting for brunch. Rylon, a rare African-American head chef on the North Side, is so respected that Black customers from the South Side would commute long distances for a taste in Lincoln Park. That’s a reason he took a job at a South Side restaurant, Love on the Blu, in suburban Blue Island. He partnered with restaurant owner Valencia Love in January. He’ll split his time between there and Frances’ in the interim.

The success at Batter & Berries didn’t last. Recent months have been rough for Rylon, who Haris said was ousted last year from Batter & Berries unfairly. There is a fight about who should be making money over the restaurant’s logo which is used on merchandise like T-shirts and glassware. Rylon filed for a trademark in August 2016, according to federal records, while Rylon’s former business partners filed for a trademark in March 2017.

“They really did him dirty,” Haris said.

Batter & Berries ownership has been quiet about the circumstances surrounding Rylon’s departure. When they announced a new chef, they refused requests for more details. They also quietly removed Rylon’s name from the barbecue restaurant he opened in the South Loop without an explanation in early 2017. He opened Rylon’s Smokehouse in October 2016, and it was renamed Windy City Ribs a few months later.

Rylon suffered another blow when a new restaurant he cooked at, Palette, closed in the Gold Coast. It was part of a police sting targeting bars and restaurants in June near Division and Rush streets and had been only open for a month. The shutter had nothing to do with Rylon.

“It’s really been a series of unfortunate events,” Haris said. “...But I believe in this guy, he’s very gifted.”

Before purchasing Frances’, Haris said they were interested in the former Salt & Pepper Diner space at 2575 N. Lincoln Avenue. That’s less than a half a mile from Batter & Berries and would have started a brunch competition. But Haris is happy with their new space and believes he can lure some of Batter & Berries’ customers. They’ll roll out the menu changes slowly.

“This is a very feel good story because Derek’s the salt of the earth,” Haris said.

Stay tuned for more on Frances’ rebirth and more in the coming weeks.

Batter & Berries

2748 North Lincoln Avenue, , IL 60614 (773) 248-7710 Visit Website

Frances' Deli

2552 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614 (773) 248-4580 Visit Website