Chef Jason Paskewitz has opened 17 restaurants, and his latest, Pomeroy, is a French spot in suburban Winnetka that gives him a chance to return to classic bistro and brasserie cooking. It also reunites him with Ryan O’Donnell at Ballyhoo Hospitality, owners of Gemini, the Lincoln Park restaurant where Paskewitz began experimenting with French cuisine in the early 2010s.
At Pomeroy, Paskewitz promises an approachable menu with classic French dishes like onion soup, escargot, steak frites, and mussels in white wine all executed in the classic French manner. “People use the term ‘modern take on classic presentations,’” he says. “I don’t use that term. There isn’t too much room for interpretation on classics — that’s the whole irony behind that statement. It’s about getting it right.”
The dining room seats 154 people; there is space on the sidewalk patio for 32 more. In addition, there are two smaller private dining rooms, one with access to the raw bar, and a private courtyard that can fit 100. The hope is that the restaurant will be both a neighborhood spot and a place for special events. O’Donnell designed the restaurant himself and tried to evoke the spirit of old Parisian bistros as much as he could: red leather booths, antique brass lamps and railings, oak floors set in a herringbone pattern, and a marble bar top. “I wanted to keep with the casual neighborhood approach,” he says. “Something charming, but not too fancy.”
Paskewitz is best known for his work at the Blanchard, the Lincoln Park bistro where he won a Jean Banchet award and was a James Beard Award semifinalist. Critics loved Paskewitz’s mastery of French food. Given that, it shouldn’t be a surprise that’s he’s most excited about the section of Pomeroy’s menu devoted to foie gras — which he says he’s quite well-versed in — as well as daily plats du jour in the style of many Parisian restaurants. The menu also features an oyster bar and fruits de mer platters, with seafood flown in from the coasts. The bar will be fully stocked with French wines and serve classic French cocktails, such as Le Spritz and French 75.
This is Ballyhoo’s second foray into the suburbs after Sophia Steak in neighboring Wilmette. Like a lot of city restaurateurs, O’Donnell says, he was nervous about moving into the suburbs, mostly because of lack of customers. But Sophia Steak turned as many tables as restaurants in the city. In the wake of that success, Ballyhoo decided to advance further into the North Shore. “I see a lot of potential in the suburbs,” O’Donnell says. “It’s an untapped market in my mind.” A third suburban Ballyhoo restaurant, Buck Russell’s Bakery & Sandwich Shop, is scheduled to open later this year. (Ballyhoo is not abandoning the city altogether, however: O’Donnell says they are in the midst of planning a new project in Lincoln Park.)
Paskewitz, meanwhile, is excited to be back in a restaurant kitchen. After his acrimonious 2016 departure from the Blanchard where his business partner sued him, Paskewitz consulted at the Pearl Brasserie in the Loop and then moved over to the United Center to cook for the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks. The Pomeroy, he says, is the most impressive restaurant kitchen he’s ever been part of.
“People don’t build restaurants like this anymore,” he says. “I’m standing on the line right now reducing sauces and simmering onion soup. This is the fun part of the job.”