In April, chef Michael Lachowicz took to Facebook to announce a “seismic shift” at his two acclaimed restaurants in Winnetka, Barking and George Three.
“A catapult-like thrust forward is needed,” he wrote, with “complete disregard for tire makers, New York aristocratic culinary royalty, or ratings of any kind outside of happiness and the complete satisfaction of each of my precious guests.”
Now we can finally see what Lachowicz had in mind. Its two restaurants, located in the same building, have been emptied, completely redesigned and refreshed with new menus. Even the facade of the building, which was black, was painted in ivory.
In his 17 years in the suburban space, Lachowicz has charmed countless diners with his take on French cuisine, with George Trois becoming the first suburban restaurant to win restaurant of the year at the Jean Banchet Awards. 2019, which celebrate Chicago’s culinary scene.
Lachowicz knew he had to change during the pandemic, and it started with the menu. “I walked away from everything that I thought was progressive and modern,” he said. “I cut the fear of worrying about whether my cooking would be accepted by younger people.”
Instead, he wanted to refocus on the type of French cuisine that made him fall in love with being a chef, which he learned working with world-renowned chefs such as Paul Bocuse and Jean Banchet. “It’s like ‘Rocky III’ where he trains in the gym,” he said. “I’m happy to cook again.”
When he brought in designer Leah Oros to help work on the different spaces, she immediately noticed a disconnect between the new menu and the atmosphere, Lachowicz said. “She was like, ‘Why not make the room match the food?’ ”
For Barking, this means that the modern, clean look of the room is gone. With new menu items such as Escargot Bourguignon en Croute – snails wrapped in puff pastry drenched in a parsley butter sauce – and a plank of house-smoked salmon with a chive omelette, the room looks a lot more like a classic French brasserie.
“It’s a complete 180,” Lachowicz said. “I knew it had to be dramatic. It was a big risk. The once bare wooden tables are now upholstered in linen and butcher paper, while a new eight-seat bar features classic brass accents. There is also a new 44-seat terrace on the model of a French garden, with a covered and heated pergola.
You’ll also notice new photos by Thomas Gavin, all of which were recently shot over a six-day period in Paris and the Palace of Versailles.
For George Trois, the cozy 16-seat space features new lighting, a redesigned fireplace, Versailles oak parquet flooring and plush decorations, including velvet armchairs, satin towels and plenty of white linen.
Lachowicz admits he had a serious identity crisis about George Three when he first opened. “I thought I had to compete with all these tasting menu restaurants in Chicago,” he said. “It was completely wrong for me. The menu turned into something more authentic and genuine and fearless. More Michael Lachowicz.
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A new dish he’s particularly proud of, called foie gras et foie gras, features a medallion of seared foie gras over foie gras-stuffed potato gnocchi. Also discover a saddle of rabbit puffed with morels and mustard sauce. “I cook the food that I absolutely love,” he said. “You will feel every moment of that passion.”
Change is of course nothing new for Lachowicz. After opening Restaurant Michael in 2005, he decided to transform the private dining room in 2015 into a tasting menu concept, George Trois. Four years later, he closed the Michael restaurant, split the space in two and launched Barking and Silencieux. The latter restaurant closed during the pandemic, leaving Barking and George Three. “I like change,” he says. “It keeps things fresh and everyone engaged.”
While the pandemic has been tough, he feels lucky to have been able to keep most of his staff. “I was able to keep my core team, most of whom have been with me for a long time,” Lachowicz said. “There is no better team I have worked with than the one here.”
Both restaurants have been in soft-opening mode, but are ready to officially reopen. Lachowicz is thrilled to see how people react when they see the new space and the food. “The whole idea, to dump everything and start from scratch, is that I wanted to bring joy back to my restaurants,” he said. “Dining should be a joyous activity. We will be happy to see you and hopefully you will be happy to see us.
Barking and George Three are both at 64 Green Bay Road, Winnetka; 847-441-3100; groupegeorgetrois.com.
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