From vintage jukeboxes to Southern-inspired Mexican comfort foods, Dove’s Luncheonette serves all dayparts, and loyal guests come often.
Adiner with a retro vibe, set to a backdrop of 1960s and ’70s soul and blues, Dove’s Luncheonette serves Southern-inspired Mexican cuisine that’s earning kudos from repeat guests and first-timers alike.
The 41-stool restaurant in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood doesn’t take reservations and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. General manager Sarah Humphreys says some neighborhood customers show up for multiple meals in a single day, enjoying an atmosphere that stays true to Paul Kahan’s One Off Hospitality Group’s lineup of unique concepts.
“We are continuing to operate in the groove that we have etched out for ourselves,” Humphreys says. “We want to be a place where people come for breakfast and then back for dinner.”
The restaurant’s name is inspired by the character Dove Linkhorn in the 1956 Nelson Algren novel A Walk on the Wild Side. Algren lived in Wicker Park from 1959 to 1975, and his book provided the owners of Dove’s Luncheonette with memorable quotes such as: “Never eat at a place called Mom’s.”
Dove’s, which opened in September 2014, doesn’t suffer from any of the same apprehension. Humphreys says Dove’s Luncheonette “is right on target” to meet first-year projections: Tickets average $20, and the restaurant does between 275 and 300 covers daily, up to 325 for brunch. Food costs are running about 27 percent.
“In the beginning we were trying to attract commuters by opening at 7 a.m.,” Humphreys says. “What we found is that they were only interested in commuting.” As a result, Dove’s now opens at 9 a.m., and revenues have remained the same.
Best-selling dishes include Chicken Fried Chicken—buttermilk-fried chicken smothered in chorizo verde gravy with sweet peas and pearl onions; Enchilada de Cochinillo with corn tortilla and roasted suckling pig with mole verde, queso fresco, cilantro, onions, pepitas, and chicharrones; and The Smoked Brisket Hash with two eggs and Texas toast, which runs as a special but is almost always available.
“The reaction to our food has been very positive, and that is somewhat surprising given how critical people can be today,” says Dennis Bernard, the chef de cuisine. “Our food is simple and straightforward. We were trying to fill a gap in the neighborhood because there was no diner.”
The positive response was immediate.