Flat & Point has remained closed since August in Logan Square, but owners Brian and Taylor Bruns have a plan. They’re reopening the restaurant with a new name — Dorothy’s Bistro — with a menu to give customers a better understanding they’re not a barbecue restaurant.
When the restaurant opened in 2019 it served homemade pasta, sausages, and the occasional selection of smoked meats, like brisket and ribs, cooked inside a 500-gallon indoor smoker. But, for better or worse, the smoked meats became a defining factor for the restaurant, with customers expecting the experience to be akin to elite American barbecue. The Brunses coined the phrase “Alpine-inspired smokehouse” hoping that would help.
“We make pastas, I do like to make bread,” Brian Bruns says, a chef who worked at fine dining institutions Spiaggia and Tru. “Flat & Point isn’t necessarily Brian’s Baby Back Rib Shack.”
“The pandemic was hard for everybody, it kind of gave me [a] little bit more of a reality check that I wanted,” Brian Bruns says. “We were struggling through our first year [in 2019], and then January and February were our two best months.” But then COVID led to suspended indoor dining in March 2020, and the Brunses pivoted. Flat & Point spent much of the pandemic selling bread, bagels, and breakfast sandwiches at farmers markets in Lincoln Park and Lincoln Square.
“Now we’re making 3,000 bagels a week by hand,” Bruns says. “It’s grown a lot, and there’s sourdough — about 80 loaves in cast-iron pans; we don’t have a full deck oven like a bakery.”
With those experiences behind them, the couple has rebranded. Dorothy’s Bistro opens Friday, October 7 at 3524 W. Fullerton Avenue. The new restaurant remains Austrian- and German-influenced with smoked sausages and more off a small menu that will change every two to three weeks. The food is still labor intensive, but Bruns says having a smaller menu can keep costs manageable. Dorothy’s Bistro won’t be discount dining, but Bruns notes how prices across the board have spiked: “I already spend $30 at Small Cheval,” he says, noting the prices at the trendy burger shop.
“I think [at Dorothy’s] you should be able to walk in and not have reservations, grab a seat, and have a nice meal,” he says.
Bruns makes lasagna with meat bolognese from smoked liver, sweetbread, and tongue. It’s a tribute to a favorite meal growing up in the southwest suburbs, the meat lasagna at Bernard’s Cafe & Deli in nearby Willowbrook. A veggie version is also available. There’s also a choucroute garnie, a classic Alsatian dish. They’ll serve smoked knockwurst for the opening menu, but Bruns has been reading about smoked sausages and will change up his encased meat offering in time. It’s served with sauerkraut and potatoes and accompanied by porchetta with a 10-day cured pork belly stuffed with andouille and pork rillette. He says it combines the best of a pork chop with the crispiness of rendered pork belly.
Through the farmers market, Bruns met vendors who inspired his menu creation. For example, Dorothy’s will serve a grilled kale salad tossed with Alpine cheese and a vinaigrette made from fermented blueberry juice acquired at the market. Bruns says every farmer’s market morning, he’d trade a bagel sandwich for a blueberry juice from Joe’s Blueberries. Bruns will seasonally adjust the ingredients for this grilled green salad.
The restaurant is one of a few moves the Bruns family is figuring out. The pandemic-era bakery took off and they’re looking for a separate space to bake bread and bagels. They’re hoping to be near Green City Market and find room in Lakeview or Lincoln Park for the operation. The original idea was to find a new space to house the restaurant and bakery, but it’s been challenging to find workers. Bruns says they received no responses from job ads and that pushed them toward their current situation. They are rejoicing after the delivery of a bagel machine that will allow them to make 3,000 in an hour — work that took a day and a half without the machine.
Dorothy is named after Bruns’ grandmother, a woman who cultivated her grandson’s imagination at an early age by giving him free rein as a child inside her kitchen. She allowed him to play with dishes and make a mess without discipline, and Bruns says that encouraged him: “My grandmother would help lift me up on the stool and stand behind me, and let me do anything I wanted,” he says.
The day Bruns and his father put up the new signs with Dorothy’s name happened to be the 20th anniversary of her death: “She was my No. 1 fan,” he says.
Dorothy’s Bistro, 3524 W. Fullerton Avenue, 773-904-7152, call the restaurant for reservations for parties of more than four.