The Local Beet’s 2010 Restaurant Of The Year: City Provisions Delicatessen
Editor’s Note: Like a lot of you, we got the sudden news last night about the very sudden closing of City Provisions Deli. We’ve admired their effort since they opened, so much so that we rushed to award it. In honor of the good works done at City Provisions, please re-read what we wrote a few years ago.
As an aside, for a long time after we gave this “award” to Cleetus and City Provisions, they asked us for some kind of actual award. Something they could frame and declare. We never got them anything; our hamstrung staff was always busy on something, and we hardly had the budget. Still, we appreciated that they appreciated it that much. We wish Cleetus and his crew all the best in what is coming. –RG
City Provisions Delicatessen is the brainchild of the outspoken and prolific Cleetus Friedman, who had already established himself with a locally-focused catering company of the same name. He saw a void in the local-eating market for a neighborhood food and meat market that would, in essence, play the role of farmer’s market, but with regular hours. Undeterred by the bleak economic forecast, Cleetus was confident that there were enough people who cared about the provenance of their food to support a delicatessen. Hence, City Provisions Delicatessen — part classic delicatessen, part vintage meat market, and part artisanal specialty store. Cleetus hedges his costs on meat by buying half- and whole-animals from small local farms, such as Dietzler and Faith’s, and butchers them in-house; pâtés and terrines are made from the less desirable cuts. City Provisions’ house-smoked and -cured pastrami and bacon have already garnered a loyal following among snout-to-tail enthusiasts. Cleetus said recently, “I really want to drive the fact that we are a true, old school delicatessen. Everything is done in house, artisanally, by hand. This is slow food. Our mayo begins with our farmer delivering eggs to us . . . our smoked hams start as a whole hog that we get once a week and butcher, brine, and smoke.”
City Provisions’ determination-turned-success-story proved to Chicago that there exists a market for sustainably- and locally-raised meat. As his plans for City Provisions Delicatessen unfolded throughout 2010, others spawned plans for similar local meat sources, beginning with Rob Levitt’s November 2010 announcement that he was leaving the Bucktown nose-to-tail restaurant, Mado, to open Butcher and Larder in Noble Square. In December, Paul Kahan also announced his plans to open a butcher shop in the West Loop meatpacking district, and although details are scarce at this time, if The Publican is any indication, it should include at least some locally-raised meat as well. (N.B. Butcher and Larder opened for business on January 16, 2011 at 1026 N. Milwaukee Ave., in Chicago.)
When asked about the state of City Provisions in early 2011, Cleetus said, “We are doing a nice, steady pace. Especially being January, we are still seeing this trend. We are meeting some goals, while exceeding others. I truly wanted the entire experience, the food along with the service, to blow people away. This is why I invest in training people and I believe that shows . . . The prepared foods and charcuterie are really taking off. And I love that. Our butchering and raw meat is taking off, too. We are about to launch a Meat CSA that will run in 6 week intervals. We are very excited about this and KNOW that our customers will be too.”
Throughout 2011, City Provisions is looking to introduce items that draw from Cleetus’ roots, like tongue, kreplach, and mandel bread. They are looking forward to the time when the weather warms, and their outdoor seating season begins. By adding cheese and charcuterie plates, as well as Sunday brunch to their repertoire, they will be able to accommodate more patrons who can linger and have some local beer and food. ”2011 is going to be a great year!,” says Cleetus. As long as we can continue to buy City Provisions’ smoky, slightly spicy pastrami, made in-house with Dietzler beef, and pick up a Gunthorp chicken to roast at home later, then it’s hard to disagree.
For supporting producers of local meat, and making it easier for us to eat local, The Local Beet honors City Provisions Delicatessen as our 2010 Restaurant of the Year.