A new market featuring fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers, honey, seasonal grab-and-go dishes, and more is coming to Pilsen this week. Paulette’s Public Market, a one-stop shop from owner Phil Baber (Dusek’s Board & Beer, Longman & Eagle), is slated to open Thursday at 1221 W. 18th Street alongside Thalia Hall. Baber, an Atlanta native, hopes to evoke the same excitement he felt during frequent visits to the famous Dekalb Farmers Market during his childhood.
The 1,060 square-foot space includes both a market and deli. When considering head chefs, Baber said he immediately thought of 26-year-old Amanda Torres (Three Aces, Dusek’s, the Delta), who he met while both were working at Dusek’s. Both are Pilsen residents. “She’s super talented, driven, and kind,” Baber said, noting that the latter isn’t always easy to find in a kitchen. “I noticed her talent when we worked together and I never forgot about that.”
Torres’ deli menu features seasonal dishes, soups, and sides that can be ordered by the pound, including German potato salad, curried chicken salad, and corn chowder, as well as 10 sandwiches made with ingredients from West Town Bakery and ButterCrumb Bakery. Sandwich selections include a muffuletta (Genoa salami, mortadella, sweet capicola, provolone, olive tapenade) and a spinach and artichoke grilled cheese (marinated artichoke hearts, spinach, scallions, provolone, parmesan, gruyere).
The market also highlights a number of local and regional vendors, such as Chocolat Uzma, Tortilleria El Milagro, V&V Supremo Cheese, and Little Farm on the Prairie in the village of Saunemin. Customers can expect drip coffee made with beans from Passion House Coffee Roasters, and Baber hopes to secure a liquor license so beer, wine, and liquor sales can commence.
Baber wants the 1,060 square-foot space to feel warm and unpretentious with a modern edge. He kept the pre-existing wood floor and distressed walls, but added pops of warm color, marble countertops, and a curved, five-foot deli case where customers can admire Torres’ dishes. Large windows and tall ceilings give the space an airy feeling, according to Baber. It also includes new ADA-compliant restrooms shared with neighboring spot Dusek’s in Thalia Hall.
The shop is named for Baber’s mother, Paulette. He got to show her around her namesake at a friends and family event and said he was overwhelmed with emotion, something he said he doesn’t often experience. “This is something that I’ve been working on in the back of my mind for a while, so to see it all come to reality was a dream,” he said. “I am really happy to be able to represent my mother. She raised me and I would not be the person that I am today if she didn’t raise me the way that she did.”
Baber has long been entranced with the idea of multi-faceted markets. He spent time in cities like San Francisco, Portland, and Burlington, Vermont. After attending college, he said he moved often and said he was never anywhere long enough to feel a sense of belonging to a community. After five years in Pilsen, that’s all changed. “I have the full intent of doing everything that I can to be an upstanding member of the community, and that means giving back and partnering with local Pilsen and Chicago-based programs,” he said. “I’m very much looking forward to giving back to the community that I love.”
Paulette’s Public Market opens Thursday in Pilsen.