Flat & Point has remained closed since August in Logan Square, but owners Brian and Taylor Bruns have a plan. They are reopening the restaurant with a new name – Dorothy’s Bistro – with a menu to give customers a better understanding that they are not a barbecue restaurant.
When the restaurant opened in 2019, it served homemade pastas, sausages, and an occasional selection of smoked meats, like brisket and ribs, cooked in a 500-gallon indoor smoker. But, for better or worse, smoked meats have become a defining factor for the restaurant, with customers expecting the experience to be akin to elite American barbecue. The Browns coined the phrase “Alpine-inspired smokehouse” hoping it would help.
“We make pasta, I like to make bread,” says Brian Bruns, a chef who has worked at fine dining establishments Spiaggia and Tru. “Flat & Point is not necessarily Brian’s Baby Back Rib Shack.”
“The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, it has kind of given me [a] a bit more of a reality check than I wanted,” says Brian Bruns. “We struggled in our first year [in 2019], then January and February were our two best months. But then COVID led to the suspension of indoor dining in March 2020, and the Browns pivoted. Flat & Point has spent much of the pandemic selling bread, bagels and breakfast sandwiches at farmers markets in Lincoln Park and Lincoln Square.
“Now we make 3,000 bagels a week by hand,” says Bruns. “It’s grown a lot, and there’s leaven — about 80 loaves in cast iron pans; we don’t have a full deck oven like a bakery.
With these experiences behind them, the couple changed their name. 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 a small menu that will change every two to three weeks. Food is still labor intensive, but Bruns says having a smaller menu can keep costs manageable. Dorothy’s Bistro won’t offer discount restaurants, but Bruns notes that prices have gone up across the board: “I once spent $30 at the Small Cheval,” he says, noting the prices at the hip burger shop.
“I think [at Dorothy’s] you should be able to come in without having a reservation, sit down and have a nice meal,” he says.
Bruns makes lasagna with bolognese meat made with smoked liver, sweetbreads and tongue. It’s a tribute to a favorite dish growing up in the southwestern suburbs, meat lasagna at Bernard’s Cafe & Deli near Willowbrook. A vegetarian version is also available. There is also sauerkraut garnished, a classic Alsatian dish. They will be serving smoked sausage for the opening menu, but Bruns has read about smoked sausage and will change its coated meat offering over time. It is served with sauerkraut and potatoes and accompanied by a porchetta with a pork belly cured for 10 days stuffed with andouille sausage and pork rillettes. He says he combines the best of a pork chop with the crispiness of melted pork belly.
Through the Farmer’s Market, Bruns met vendors who inspired his menu creation. For example, Dorothy’s will serve grilled kale salad drizzled with alpine cheese and a vinaigrette made with fermented blueberry juice bought at the market. Bruns says that every farmer’s market morning, he would trade a bagel sandwich for blueberry juice from Joe’s Blueberries. Bruns will adjust the ingredients of this grilled green salad according to the seasons.
The restaurant is one of the few moves the Bruns family is considering. The pandemic-era bakery has taken off and they’re looking for a separate space to bake bread and bagels. They hope 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 the bakery, but it was difficult to find workers. Bruns says they haven’t received any response to job postings and that’s pushed them back to where they are now. They are delighted with the delivery of a bagel machine that will allow them to make 3,000 in an hour, a job that took a day and a half without the machine.
Dorothy is named after Bruns’ grandmother, a woman who nurtured her grandson’s imagination from an early age by letting it run wild as a child in her kitchen. She allowed him to play with the dishes and make a mess without discipline, and Bruns says this encouraged him: “My grandmother used to help me lift myself onto the stool and stand behind me, and let it do whatever I wanted,” he says.
The day Bruns and her 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.
Dorothee’s bistro3524 W. Fullerton Avenue, 773-904-7152, call restaurant for reservations for parties larger than four.