After a seven-month pandemic related closure, Autre Monde, 6727 Roosevelt Rd., has reopened in time to mark its tenth anniversary with mini-reunions with their beloved customers.
“Like so many others we are an experience-based restaurant and we transport people when they dine with us,” said Christine Tully, general manager and co-owner of Autre Monde. “Between dining room closures, delayed PPP loans, and the uncertainty around the election we found ourselves in a perfect storm. We had to close to control our future.”
Though customers were receptive to Autre Monde’s curbside service menu it was difficult to chart a clear path forward for the dine-in establishment. Ongoing menu re-tooling and financial guess work made pandemic closure, also known as hibernation, integral to Autre Monde’s long term survival.
“I remember standing in this empty dining room wondering if we would ever open again,” said Chef Dan Pancake. “Seven months is a long break in a relationship with a restaurant.”
“We’re still getting our restaurant legs back,” said Chef Beth Partridge. “We’re managing expectations and taking baby steps.”
“We are reacclimating, but we’re not bullet proof yet,” added Pancake.
The chefs, along with Tully and sommelier, John Aranza, who met in the early 90’s, took the time off to reflect on all the years the business has been on Roosevelt Road in Berwyn.
Autre Monde opened 10 years ago to immediate accolades including a notable three-star rating from the Chicago Tribune. Chef Pancake earned a coveted Jean Banchet nomination for Chef of the Year in 2013 and the restaurant has achieved Green Seal Certification. Yes, that means their used fryer oil is recycled into cleaning products. The restaurant recovered from a significant fire in 2012, hosted a James Beard Foundation dinner in 2015, and has executed myriad pop-up events over the years including an elaborate ode to the foodie film “Big Night.”
The team studied all the dishes they had served over the years and shaped the re-opening menu to reflect the history of the establishment and celebrate the foods they love to cook and serve. Through thoughtful edits the slimmed down menu captures Autre Monde’s spirit by honoring the past while allowing room for bold specials.
“We want to cook the dishes we know best,” said Pancake. “We want to push out food that brings a smile to people’s faces.”
Classic Autre Monde dishes like fried oyster salad, Tunisian chicken thighs and baked brie with black truffle appear on the menu alongside new offerings like Chef Pancake’s reimagined octopus a la plancha and Chef Partridge’s D.O.P white asparagus with fresh Logroño sauce. The duo also explored bread making while the restaurant was on hiatus and the resulting bread program is a noteworthy addition to the Autre Monde arsenal.
Aranza, a level two sommelier, tightened up the wine list and hopes to introduce a wine club to customers this summer. He is especially eager to build Autre Monde’s reputation for serving memorable gin and tonics by introducing Airem gin to the cocktail program. The all-natural Spanish spirit is USDA certified organic and is both vegan and gluten free. Rest assured, Autre Monde’s blood orange gimlet, jokingly referred to by staff as “the notorious B.O.G,” rightly remains on the menu as it has been every day since the restaurant opened.
Most importantly, the time off helped the quartet home in on their priorities, appreciate all they have accomplished and plan forward in a way that allows them to remain true to their core belief that Autre Monde should always be a place that offers elevated fare without an air of pretention.
The quartet behind Autre Monde set out 10 years ago with the intention of building a restaurant they would want to visit. Today, despite having more than 120 years of combined restaurant experience between them, their simple objective remains the same.
“Going back to where we started has helped us figure out where we want to be now,” said Tully. “We want to be an approachable and comfortable neighborhood restaurant where everyone feels welcome.”