A hospitality partnership three decades in the making will come to fruition when Amy Morton (Found, The Barn Steakhouse) and James Beard Award-winning chef Debbie Gold unveil LeTour, their new contemporary French American brasserie with Moroccan influences in Evanston.
LeTour translates from French to “round” — both a reference to the restaurant’s shape and a symbol of Morton and Gold’s journey over the course of their careers. The pair met in 1990 while working at Morton’s first restaurant, Mirador, in Old Town which served Provencal French fare. The opening comes about a month and a half after Morton closed Found Kitchen + Social House, ending a 10-year run in the suburbs.
LeTour’s approach is “unconventionally French,” Gold and Morton’s version of the cuisine that they tasted during a summer trip to Paris and the south of France, a region laden with Moroccan influences near the Mediterranean Sea.
“The French dining scene as I had known it just seems to have catapulted into modernity,” Morton says. “It was so today, so cool. The unbelievable friendliness of the servers — there’s such an old, bad reputation for being fussy and stuffy — translated into the food. It’s light, beautiful, cool, fresh.”
In Evanston, that mindset manifests in a lineup of dishes that range from traditional to modern: a Moroccan eggplant and chickpea salad with harissa vinaigrette is listed alongside a classic Lyonnaise salad with lardon and poached duck egg. Large plates include chicken tagine with green olives and apricots; steak frites with red wine demi-glace; and a double-smash burger with raclette cheese and crispy onions.
“I worked for four years in the south of France, so it’s sort of my first love of food,” Gold says. “Exploring that 30 years later became very intriguing... I think what’s exciting is the combination of Amy and me, and our manager Kathleen, together, and the possibilities of sharing what’s going on today in France, which is part of having some Moroccan flare to the menu.”
Morton says that early feedback from friends and family has underscored a theme of surprise. “[The menu] was unexpected, which I kind of loved,” she says. “That’s my philosophy when designing a dining room — there’s always another space to be explored and discovered, we don’t want to give it away all at once. That’s how people were finding the menu.”
LeTour is housed inside a mid-century building (originally a bank) with soaring windows. It seats 150 inside between two dining rooms and a bar-and-lounge space. A patio, which Morton describes as the largest outdoor dining space between Chicago and Milwaukee, should debut in the spring.
Though the pair’s paths diverged following Mirador. Gold moved to Kansas City and in 1999 earned the James Beard Foundation’s award for Best Chef: Midwest; Morton (daughter of Morton’s Steakhouse founder Arnie Morton) opened Found and the Barn Steakhouse in Evanston, as well as Stolp Island Social in Aurora. Gold returned to Chicago in 2017 to helm the kitchens at Tied House and left in early 2020. She and Morton then found themselves side by side again when Gold took over as executive chef at Found.
Prior to launching Found in 2012, Morton had imagined the restaurant in the city proper, but what she found in the suburbs surprised her: “It sort of started occurring to me that here we are in the gateway to the North Shore,” she says. “This is the perfect meeting ground... not that far from the city, but equidistant from the northern suburbs.”
Both Morton and Gold grew up in the North Shore and bring that knowledge of the area (and its diners) to their new restaurant. “As much as I learned to cook in France and love French food, I’m still a Midwestern girl at heart,” says Gold.
LeTour, 625 Davis Street in Evanston, open 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday; 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday; 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday.