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Michael Wren | Photo: Katrina Wittkamp | July 7, 2014
Chef Brian Huston, former executive chef at the Publican, returns to his hometown of Evanston to offer a uniquely personal dining experience.
Brian Huston doesn’t speak in empty platitudes. When the former Publican chef de cuisine says he wants his new restaurant, Boltwood, to be a brick-and-mortar expression of his love for his hometown of Evanston, he means it.
Not only has he named his restaurant after the freshman wing of Evanston High School, he has built much of his contemporary American menu around fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from Evanston’s various farmers markets.
Inside, the restaurant showcases pieces crafted by local wood artisan Brian Post as well as a management team that is brimming with Evanston connections.
Huston’s business partner, John Kim, owns Brothers K Coffeehouse on Main Street. His brother, Brady, handles the marketing. And Kara Mann, an Evanston High School grad who made it big with her eponymous design firm in Manhattan, oversaw the restaurant’s rustic yet chic design.
“Details are important to me,” says Huston. “I sat on the phone with Comcast for hours trying to get the restaurant a phone number that began with [a prefix like] 328, 475 or 869. It didn’t work out, but a lot of us used to have to dial those numbers as a kid. And I want to tap into those memories.”
The foundations of Boltwood were laid nearly 20 years ago, when Huston was working under former Spiaggia Executive Chef Paul Bartolotta. “‘Go learn something new,’ Bartolotta said, ‘and then bring it back home.’”
Huston did just that. He worked everywhere from Zuni Cafe in San Francisco to The Kitchen in Colorado before landing his self-described “dream job” at The Publican in Chicago—a position Huston enjoyed so much he wasn’t sure he’d ever leave.
But when Huston received a call from Dan Kelch, owner of Evanston’s now shuttered Lulu’s Dim Sum & Then Sum, asking if he might be interested in renting his old space, Huston knew it was time to open a place closer to home.
The goal of Boltwood, Huston says, is to make people feel like they’re visiting his house for dinner. The food will come out slowly, in gentle waves. Salami and cheese. Perhaps a whole roasted fish or grilled tri-tip steaks. A cornucopia of local vegetables. Then homespun desserts.
He says he wants to hear children laughing and music playing and lots of conversation—symbols, he says, of everything that’s comforting about living on the North Shore.
“I feel a connection to this place,” says Huston. “I’m invested in it, and I want that to show in everything we do.”
My wife, Spice House's Vulcan fire salt, N'duja
Wasabi mashed potatoes, veggie medley, profiteroles