American Flatbread’s “Fountainview Hearth” location is scheduled to open in late spring 2011, and the build out on the ground floor in the newest building on Giddings Plaza in Lincoln Square will start next month. CSJ got a sneak peak at their plans, which include a large wood-burning oven that employs ancient technology, seating for 125 diners, a bar area, and eventually a “Nano-brewery” that will produce fresh beer.
Fred Gale, a partner in American Flatbread, grew up in Chicago, so when it came time to think about expanding the business he first thought of the north side. After searching for almost five years, he thinks they have finally found a good fit in Lincoln Square.
“The biggest challenge will be fitting everything we want to do in this space while working out the mechanical operations,” said Gale. “Plus this is American Flatbread’s first restaurant inside a residential building. But we’re looking forward to working with the residents here as well as the other business owners in the neighborhood.”
The oven will form a 12’ x 12’ centerpiece for the restaurant, and will be constructed of clay, hay, sand and alder branches. It will have to rest and cure for at least 3 months before it can be used. Sitting on a stone platform, the entire apparatus will weigh in at 40,000 pounds. Wisconsin and Michigan will supply the wood, which apparently will burn very efficiently, so don’t expect to see a wood shed out back. To see a similar oven in action, visit http://www.americanflatbread.com/restaurants/
American Flatbread started in Vermont in the 1990’s with a mission to make good food “that not only fills our hunger and tastes good to our mouths but also nourishes, nurtures, and heals.” The company lists commitments to using local and organic ingredients, promoting healthy eating habits to school children, and supporting community causes through fundraisers.
Another challenge they will face at their new location is finding nearby farms where they can get ingredients. Gale’s first order of business once construction begins this winter is to locate local farms that American Flatbread can rely on for organic or at least sustainably produced ingredients. And he didn’t rule out trying partner with community gardens for herbs and garlic.
The interior design plans feature warm, earthy tones and sustainable materials such as reclaimed barn lumber for the floors. When they first open, Gale indicated it would be for dinner service only, and then they will gradually add lunch hours starting with weekends. In the summer, windows will open out onto patio seating in Giddings Plaza.
“It was challenging to find a prominent but affordable location where people are as committed to fresh food as we are, but serving up good, healthy food is a concept that will work in Lincoln Square.”