Verve Wine, a wine store mini-chain with locations in New York City and San Francisco, made its Chicago debut in 2021 in Lincoln Park with a restaurant component as Verve Wine and Provisions. But as operators searched for solid footing during the pandemic, Verge would close in January 2022 inside the Lincoln Commons development at the former Children’s Memorial Hospital.
But Verve hung onto the space which paved the way for a return. Argot is a new French restaurant from the team at Verve Wine that managing partner Dustin Wilson calls “an awesome neighborhood restaurant that provides good food and great hospitality.”
“[We want] to be humble with all of it and take really good care of people,” Wilson adds.
Chicago has in recent years rekindled its romance with French dining, swept off its feet by the marriage of modern design and classical technique at Obelix, a 2023 James Beard finalist for best new restaurant, and the splashy styling at Le Select, Boka’s cavernous brasserie.
“We’re all big fans of the very classic French bistro and brasserie type of places,” says Wilson, who cites famed New York institution Balthazar as an influence. “We’re taking bits of inspiration from places like [Balthazar] and blending in Chicago flair and a heavy focus on wine. Picture a person who grew up in France and then lived a few decades in Chicago — this is what they want.”
Executive chef Lucas DePerry, an indigenous chef raised on the Miskwaabikaang (Red Cliff) reservation on Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin, will apply a playful touch to a dinner menu with options like a buttery Pigs en Croûte — a riff on cocktail weenies “in blankets” — with Toulouse sausage from Paulina Meat Market. Midwestern meats giant Nueske’s gets a nod in the frisee with maple lardon, and Lake Superior whitefish and trout will be baked and served with Lentilles de Puy, creme fraiche, and sorrel.
Classic bistro fare will also have a place at Argot, where traditionalists will find cast iron-seated steak frites with peppercorn sauce, gruyere-topped French onion soup, and crowd-pleasing Croque Madame. The side-by-side presentation of old and new extends to the restaurant’s wine list as well, which is built around French and domestic options. In a departure from a recent influx of Chicago spots exclusively featuring natural wine, Wilson says he felt strongly about making room for a wide range on Argot’s market list, where every bottle will be available for $150 or less.
“The goal is to be a bridge between showcasing a lot of benchmark, traditional, more classic types of wines while balancing it out with more contemporary outside-the-box [styles],” he says. He’s mindful of its close proximity to DePaul University and thinks it’s a safe bet that students and their families won’t enjoy leafing through a massive list of expensive bottles. If a patron is looking to “go a little wild,” however, Wilson will be ready to deliver with a separate collections list that’s longer, pricier, and more regionally extensive.
Argot’s 54-seat dining room bears many marks of familiar bistro style with a tiled entrance, dark wood furniture, and sleek banquettes. Cool tones run throughout, see in dark green upholstery and a lime-washed back wall decorated with French new wave posters. It also features a custom mural by Angelo Dolojan, a local illustrator and server at acclaimed restaurant Kasama where he snagged a cameo in Season 2 of FX series The Bear. There’s also a 14-seat bar and a private dining room for 12 where the team plans to hold wine dinners. An outdoor patio, which will open when weather allows, will add an additional 20 spots.
Argot, 2349 N. Lincoln Avenue, Scheduled to open Wednesday, October 27.