Cookies & Carnitas has been a fan favorite vendor at Green City Market for more than a decade with its sandwiches, tacos, and ice cream sandwiches. These items are abundant at restaurants across the city, but chef Brad Newman and company use fresh ingredients from many of Cookies & Carnitas fellow farmers market vendors to create a more mindful (and in Newman’s opinion, a more delicious) product. Newman applied the same ethos when he opened his first restaurant. Cookies & Carnitas lasted for four years in Edgewater; since late 2017, it’s been a delivery-only operation with rumors that it would eventually reopen.
Tired of running a “guerrilla restaurant,” Newman has big plans for Edgewater. He’s opening a new space with a bakery/coffeeshop on one half, and a more refined dining experience with a bar on the other. Brasserie by Cookies & Carnitas could open in August or September at 5939 N. Broadway Street. That’s a short walk from Newman’s first restaurant.
The rustic restaurant will be a fun take on French brasseries using Mexican flavors, Newman said. It won’t like Carlos Gaytán’s Mexique or Tzuco. Newman isn’t gunning for Michelin stars. He talked about how indebted Chicago is to its Mexican community, and how every local is influenced by the country’s culture. They’ll pay homage to that: For example, they’re making a cassoulet that'll substitute the traditional white beans for chorizo.
“We got crazy stuff going on,” Newman said. “We got shit that other restaurants just don’t do.”
The menu at the old restaurant would constantly rotate. Skirt tacos would leave the menu, to be replaced by lamb sweetbreads in a heartbeat. That’s just part of Newman’s creative vibe. He’s worked at fancy restaurants like Charlie Trotter’s, Tru, and at the Sofitel. He’s found a niche in Edgewater with a focus on approachability. While the dishes at Brasserie may be more exotic, say compared to pizza at the original restaurant, Newman said they are still taking a simple approach. He wants locals to know that the new restaurant won’t be froufrou. He promised large portions, lots of braised proteins (lamb shank), and plenty of fish. Expect hearty fare with lots of slow-cooked items.
Newman just wants to showcase quality ingredients. He wouldn’t name names, but in recent years some of the most hyped restaurnt openings have rubbed him the wrong way. These new restaurants, he said, placed too much style over substance. Their prices are also too high. Brasserie won't be like that, but it won’t be cheap, either, Newman said. Fresh and organic ingredients often increase an item’s price.
In the morning, the bakery side will have coffee and breakfast sandwiches, plus Cookies & Carnitas’s familiar roster of baked goods. They’ll have coffee from different roasters like Dark Matter and Metropolis. The space also will feature a large bar.
Part of the reason for opening is that Newman just needed the kitchen space for another business endeavor. His company provides lunches for students attending private schools like Sacred Heart Schools, Bennett Day School, and Wolcott School. Newman said they make about 1,300 meals a day. Newman asked for his alderman’s help, and he decided Alderman (48th Ward) Harry Osterman’s office in helping him find the space.
Uptown and Edgewater have been very good to Newman. He wants to continue to support the communities. Though he’s kept busy with the school lunch business, he’s excited to return to restaurants. Stay tuned for more details.
Brasserie by Cookies & Carnitas, 5939 N. Broadway Street, scheduled for an August or September opening.