Chicago-area restaurateur Amy Morton opened The Barn (Rear 1016 Church St., Evanston, Illinois) on November 1, a “meat-centric hideaway” housed in a 19th century brick barn hidden away down an alley in the middle of Evanston. Walking in off the gritty street and past a large green barn door, guests are transported to a different time and place when they step into the speakeasy-esque restaurant. The space was designed by Amy to preserve the unique beauty and original feeling of the barn, but plays a supporting role to the natural centerpieces of the restaurant—the guests and the food.
Unlike Amy’s first collaboration with Chef Nicole Pederson, the flexitarian, small-plates restaurant, Found, The Barn is meat-centric; its traditionally-structured menu draws inspiration from Chef Nicole’s classical French training, brasseries and butcher shops, and hints at the new, celebrating a wide range of proteins from the barnyard and beyond. The Barn is a modern meaterie inspired by Amy’s time spent working side-by-side with her father Arnie Morton, of Morton’s Steakhouses. “The Barn is a nod to my dad,” Morton says. “Of course, there will be steak on the menu though it’s a sidebar to a broader menu—there is so much amazing meat out there we wanted to offer more and to let Nicole’s cooking shine.”
Chef Pederson, Food & Wine’s “People’s Best New Chef” nominee in the Great Lakes category in 2014 and 2015, Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient, and crowned the “Princess of Porc” for winning Cochon 555 in Chicago last year, offers a menu of simple refined options, allowing the ingredients to speak for themselves and boasting several dishes with table-side service. Appetizers include such items as:
Soupe de Poisson—saffron and shellfish soup with poached halibut and herbed cream
Signature, Table-Side Salad, Little Gem and Baby Red Romaine—creamy Dijon, chopped egg, pumpkin seeds, parmeggiano reggiano and pickled sweet onions
Tomato and Onion Tart, served cool from the farm table—with cherry tomatoes, caramelized onion, cornmeal crust and thyme
Warm King Crab and Golden Beet Nage—red beet, parsley and horseradish relish
Bison Bolognese—hand-dipped, red wine, warm spices and chitarra pasta
Roasted Vegetable Provença—cauliflower, Japanese eggplant, tomato, maitake mushrooms, mustard greens and almonds
Whole Roasted Mediterranean Sea Bass, deboned table-side – braised lettuce, lemon, shallot and beurre blanc
Pan Seared Calves Liver— bacon, leek, red wine and black pepper
It wouldn’t be a nod to Morton’s dad without a selection of steaks: The Barn offers only the best Prime Heritage Angus with a choice of three cuts—a 14-ounce New York, 16-ounce Ribeye and 10-ounce Tenderloin. All are presented tableside on the bone with butterball potatoes and marrow butter, béarnaise and red wine demi-glace. In addition, Chef Pederson offers Nightly Specials every evening. Some of those include:
Wednesday: Chicken Pot Pie—creamy chicken velouté and flaky pastry crust
Thursday: Crispy Sweetbreads—ode to La Tour—brown butter, lemon, capers, potato and cipollini onions
Saturday: Rack of Lamb—4-bone roasted rack with Dijon and herbs
Desserts are simply done with the finest ingredients, featuring Chocolate Mousse with candied hazelnuts and whipped cream; Classic Affogato with vanilla gelato & espresso and the option of adding a shot of Strega or PX sherry; and Crème Brulée with fresh raspberries.
The beverage program was created by Michelle Sallemi, a Level 2 Certified Sommelier for the Court of Master Sommeliers. At The Barn, Sallemi’s cocktails focus on classic recipes, while she curates a wine list that is big, bold and thoughtful: a blend of adventurous, hidden gems and classic well-known vintners and varietals. The list boasts the best selections from around the world that are unexpected, not always showy, and all chosen with the goal of being perfectly paired with Chef Nicole’s food.
Erected in 1883 to house the horses for the Borden Condensed Milk Company’s horse and buggy milk delivery service, the building waxes nostalgic within the context of the raw barn. Restored elements include dramatic 20 ft. ceilings and crumbling original brick walls. The space is illuminated by a whimsical chandelier with gossamer threads of silver cords connecting its bulbs, spanning 6 ½ ft. by 6 foot. The restaurant also features a glowing, back-lit bar reaching nearly to the ceiling with a sliding library ladder.
The ground floor is decorated in a color palate of blues, greens, and cognacs with lots of textures and woods. Meanwhile, the former hay loft is a departure from the floor below with a supper club-type vibe. It overlooks the dining room and holds three large half-moon, tufted oxblood-leather booths along the back wall, and intimate tables with chairs cushioned in the same leather as the booths. Guests are served on both floors from custom carts by industrial designer Andrew Bates.
Strategically-placed artwork includes a nearly 7 ft. tall color photograph of an alpaca by Aliza Eliazarov, a rectangular, green moss installation by Heather Shouse on the second floor, and a photograph of Amy’s father as a child on a pony hangs next to the bar. Like the chandelier, the artwork offers guests unique vistas from wherever they sit in the restaurant; Amy sat in nearly every seat to ensure she understood the guest’s perspective. Taking care of the guest is of utmost importance at The Barn; the restaurant offers an elevated style of service with special touches, such as warming a guests’ car upon their departure.