Cookies & Carnitas, the sweets and meats vendor that’s earned legions of fans for mant than a decade at Chicago’s Green City Market, is charging ahead with its pre-pandemic plan to open its hybrid bakery/coffeeshop and upscale restaurant in Edgewater. Partner and chef Brad Newman (Charlie Trotter’s, Tru) plans opening Cookies & Carnitas/Cafe by Ruca for carryout in about three weeks at 5939 N. Broadway. He hopes to launch the project’s next phase, Brasserie by C&C, a French restaurant with Mexican influences, in May.
Customers can expect to find all their Cookies & Carnitas favorites on the cafe menu including fluffy cinnamon rolls, PB&J cookies, pizzas, sandwiches, and skirt steak tacos. Newman and his team have kept the business open throughout the pandemic, cooking out of an unmarked ghost kitchen they’ve occupied for years. “It’ll be the same thing, but a little more polished,” he says. “It’ll have nicer facilities — more mature.”
The coffeeshop component, Cafe by Ruca, will offer a robust beverage selection including coffee, espresso drinks, Mexican hot chocolate, and juices. There will also be a collection of grab-and-go items such as salads, bagels (baked on-site), and quiche. The cafe’s name comes from Ruca Foods, the school food service company Newman and partners also own and operate.
The menu at Brasserie by C&C will feature upscale versions of French dishes that pay homage to Chicago’s Mexican-American communities and their culinary influences on Newman: “I’m a Jewish kid from the suburbs and my entire adult life has been in kitchens,” he says. “I grew up in kitchens with Mexicans.”
The menu includes King Crab tamale soup (drawn butter); charred octopus rubbed with piquillo, guajillo, and lime; and a cassoulet with black and pinto beans, dried chorizo, and duck confit. Newman has been known to swiftly change up his menus. He anticipates that in the future, other area ethnic groups including Pakistanis, Vietnamese, and Ethiopians will also influence the menu.
The restaurant will be dine-in only with a special emphasis on service — something Newman feels is lacking in the city. If indoor dining remains banned by the time the restaurant debuts, he’ll make the 40-seat space available to private parties, again subject to governmental rules.
Newman announced Brasserie by C&C in March just before the coronavirus pandemic upended the country and hospitality industry. He’s made sure to differentiate his approach to French-Mexican cuisine from that of chef Carlos Gaytán at Mexique or Tzuco. Newman says he’s focused on serving long, languid dinners to the surrounding neighborhood, with little interest in Michelin inspectors.
He’s also a staunch advocate of sourcing ingredients from local producers and fellow market vendors, eschewing large distributors like Sysco and U.S. Foods. Newman says products can result in higher prices, but he aims to give diners a good deal with large portions that come as a set or kit — a taco dinner with a whole duck, for example. “As far as bang for the buck, we’re going to be the antithesis of the small-plate movement,” Newman says.
Cookies & Carnitas’ previous stand-alone location closed after four years on the corner of Ardmore and Broadway. The business operated as an exclusively to-go operation since 2017, with rumors of a reopening circulating for some time. The pandemic nearly ended Newman’s brasserie dreams, but between to-go sales and income from markets, he expects to stay solvent “by the skin of our teeth.” Carryout and delivery are currently available via Tock. Stay tuned for news of an opening date at Brasserie by C&C.
Cookies & Carnitas and Cafe by Ruca, 5940 N. Broadway Street, scheduled for a late January opening.
Brasserie by C&C, 5939 N. Broadway Street, scheduled for a May opening.