Parisian-style cafe hopes to create community

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Oak Park resident Hughes N'Cho-Allepot first landed an interior design job in New York City after moving from Paris, where he'd lived most of his life. He had every intention of returning home to open a restaurant.

Soon enough, however, he met his wife, got married and had children. His American roots got deeper. Not a fan of the Big Apple, N'Cho-Allepot packed up to Chicago to be closer to his wife's Midwest family.

And that's when he fell in love again.

"The whole energy of [Chicago] is very similar to Paris," the now six-year resident of Oak Park said. The city had its appeal, but in terms of raising a family and continuing his business, he knew Oak Park was the place. Now he's ready to bring a taste of Parisian life to the place he calls home.

Café Dampierre, he says, will be more than a cafe or restaurant, but a place for people to get to know each other. He said in Paris, people gather to meet in a café. In America it happens in bars, and it's this he wants changed.

"There is an atmosphere of community that we really can't find at a coffee shop [here] where it's all about come and go," N'Cho-Allepot said. "If things are moving too fast, you forget who you are. In cafe culture, you open yourself to others. You know your neighbor. There is voice and there is life."

Constant connection to tablets, smart phones and laptops, headphones instead of conversation and uninviting spaces that don't encourage interaction are trends he's hoping to reverse, even if only for a few minutes — or an hour — in a day.

"I want to reconnect. I want to share happiness. I want to feel happiness," he said. "I want people to feel relaxed. Life is just beauty and sometimes we forget that. We just have to live it and enjoy it. I want to connect human to human again."

N'Cho-Allepot sees this missing from traditional American cafes but thinks a model like his can thrive in the community. Marion Street Cheese Market, he said, is an example of a successful establishment that gave him the confidence his cafe could bring a fresh take to the cafe scene.

Café Dampierre, which he describes as an extension of a home, is not about "one man trying to create something; it's about everybody being part of something." He explained the classic-style French decor, mixed with a modern feel, will offer guests a chance to partake in the variety of breakfast, brunch and lunch items like croissants, sandwiches with homemade bread, mussels or classic French dishes like Sole Meunière, to name a few — all with craft beers and wine.

The unique menu should be a draw, but N'Cho-Allepot hopes the culture keeps people coming back.

"You see the world and the world sees you. … You open yourself up to communication. It's all about comfort, welcoming, softness, beauty and sophisticate," he said. "It's just about community. It takes more than one man to build a village and in our village, it's everybody."

N'Cho-Allepot has the renderings done and hopes to move into a place on or around The Avenue district or the Downtown Oak Park area. During the next six months, he'll be working on a kickstart campaign to get the community interested and to attract investors. Until then, he'll help spread his message, as stated in the cafe's slogan: "Eat, drink and be happy. Life is good."

To learn more about the cafe, check out the Facebook page.

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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People Eating Tasty Animals from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 3:42 PM

This would be a great addition to our community. I look forward to its opening! To C Martin and Violet Aura, I'll grant you the right to eat what you wish even if I find a vegan / vegetarian diet to be unnatural, unhealthy and generally unappealing. I'd ask the same courtesy in return. FWIW, foie gras products are already available elsewhere in Oak Park. Do you protest those places too? Haven't seen you outside them yet.

Michael Sanchez from Chicago  

Posted: December 30th, 2012 10:22 AM

Here is a link to Cafe Dampierre's Kickstarter campaign...

Mary from Oak Park  

Posted: December 29th, 2012 9:29 AM

I can't wait for this place to open - sounds great! An authentic Parisian-style cafe would be a real asset to Oak Park. And I, for one, will gladly order and enjoy foie gras if it's on the menu. If not, I will find other dishes to enjoy.

C Martin  

Posted: December 15th, 2012 9:14 PM

Thank you Violet. If I do come on strong, it's because I cannot bear how we as "humans" treat animals. And hammond is by far the worst when it comes to cruelty. His posts glorifying his non-stop ingestion of every type of animal is both cruel and nauseating. But I bet if someone were to take his dog (which I highly doubt he has the compassion to have) and serve it on a plate and feed it to him, then (maybe not) he would be appalled. But it's okay to eat other creatures including geese liver.

Violet Aura  

Posted: December 15th, 2012 6:24 PM

Well Dave, you started out by defending the sadistic practice--all for the lust of the tongue. When people learn to connect the pain of animals they eat to those they own, maybe things will get much better. I think the person responding to you might have been a little strong in language, but you DO go on and on about dead flesh.

C Martin  

Posted: December 15th, 2012 6:01 PM

After all the dead animals that you ingest on a daily basis (including baby seal meat!), you're the one missing the bricks (of compassion) As is typical fare at most French restaurants/cafes, foie gras is the norm. If this particular cafe will not serve it, that is great. We will all see when the menu is posted. I'm just letting my feelings be known to the "chef"

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 15th, 2012 3:06 PM

Foie gras was not mentioned until you brought it up. You have not idea if it's even going to be sold at this restaurant. You, C Martin, are looking for something to get worked up about. You're creating an argument with yourself. I'm not going to continue this, as it is genuinely cruel to argue with someone who is, as we say in Wisconsin, a few bricks shy of a load.

C Martin  

Posted: December 15th, 2012 7:23 AM

Read and learn, foie gras lover. But it really doesn't matter to you how animals suffer and die to feed your face so in case you're thinking of calling me a hypocrite or asking the typical dead carcass eater questions like "Do you wear leather, eat eggs, etc.?" NO I don't. And yes, I DO tend to get worked up over animal cruelty and against those who are so uncaring to those who cannot defend themselves. And you hammond r the worst.

David Hammond from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 14th, 2012 10:53 PM

The livers of geese fattened for foie gras do not "literally explode." That would be defeating the purpose, now, wouldn't it? By the way, what's your purpose in posting? You seem remarkably worked up -- ready to explode, figuratively -- over a series of suppositions.

C Martin  

Posted: December 14th, 2012 7:43 PM

Seeing that this is a french restaurant/cafe, I dread to think that the chef will serve foie gras, the cruelest of dishes (although I'm sure, Mr. Food Hammond loves the stuff) Stuffing a long tube down the throats of geese to fatten up their livers until they literally explode, is not in step with the people of Oak Park who generally tend to be compassionate and caring. If he decides to serve this horrific food, I personally will lead the protests that will surely ensue.

Kat from Oak park  

Posted: December 13th, 2012 11:57 PM

Can't wait!!

Scott from Oak Park  

Posted: December 13th, 2012 9:29 AM

The old Mancini's spot would be perfect, it would be a great location for something like this. Hope it happens!

Brian Chang from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 13th, 2012 9:09 AM

At the end of the article, it mentions either the Avenue or downtown Oak Park as possible locations.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: December 13th, 2012 8:50 AM

Good luck. It seems to be a good idea on the surface. Maybe he's still scouting locations, or he's trolling for a better deal along with investors. Fine either way, it's a renters market right now, so it's likely a good strategy. Unfortunately, if he keeps talking the Village might throw grant money at him, which would be the wrong thing to do. If he executes on his good idea, folks will come & keep coming.

Dan from oak park  

Posted: December 13th, 2012 6:30 AM

Ha. How do you write an entire article an not include the street, neighborhood or any hint of location?

Mike Lennox from OP  

Posted: December 12th, 2012 8:00 PM

Missed something.....where is it going to be at?

Ali Ohlhoff  

Posted: December 11th, 2012 10:31 PM

Judging by the immediate positive reaction I got when I posted this story to Facebook moments ago, Cafe Dampierre will be very well received. Can't wait to try it!

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