First Look: All Day Dining At endgrain

By Anthony Todd in Food on May 2, 2013 5:40PM

It takes ambition to start an all-day restaurant right out of the gate. Most new places don't even attempt to serve lunch at first, let alone brunch, but endgrain is a different beast. With an service day anchored by donuts on one end and innovative evening specials on the other, endgrain may become your full-time restaurant hangout spot.

The restaurant is the brainchild of Chef Enoch Simpson (formerly of Girl and the Goat and Nightwood) and his brother Caleb Simpson. They built almost the entire place themselves, and the rough-hewn aesthetic shines through every surface. Caleb refinished the chairs, redid the floor and built the bar, all the way up to the beautifully irregular bar top. It's made of (wait for it) endgrain pieces of reclaimed wood, gathered from the Chicago Rebuilding Exchange. "It's a very unique, one of a kind bar," says Caleb. It's also one of a kind in shape - it extends into the dining room to make a six-person table at the end, so that bar patrons can actually talk to each other.

The brothers did some reclaiming of their own during the year that they were building endgrain. Several previous restaurants had occupied the space, and they had tossed tons of stuff down in the basement. “There were like two or three dead restaurants down there. It was like a hoarders episode," explained Enoch. "It helped a lot because we had to decorate around what we had." This isn't a high-budget restaurant, but the hand-made, reclaimed look (which happens to be entirely on-trend right now) looks like it was designed from scratch by a fancy designer. The light fixtures? Vintage poultry feeders. "People keep asking if they are hubcaps," laughed Enoch. The wall of wood at the end of the dining room, also made from reclaimed blocks, is "a play on what a woodbin would look like at a lumber yard if you were looking straight at it." Right above the "woodbin," a stuffed wild boar head looks down menacingly at the room.

Enoch is most famous for his donuts, which he originated at Nightwood. Anyone fond of their bacon butterscotch donut (and really, who isn't) should be lining up early in the morning at endgrain. They are taking an interesting approach to service: starting at 7 a.m., donuts and coffee will be available and at 10 a.m., food will kick in. Then the restaurant will serve the same all-day menu straight through from 10 a.m. until closing, with extra brunch specials in the morning and dinner specials at night. In the morning, they won't have servers — the restaurant will be staffed by baristas and cooks, and counter service will be the name of the game. At night, more traditional dining takes over.

What are some of these dishes? For brunch, try a duck egg salad with a pickled mustard seed vinaigrette or a biscuit sandwich with crispy pork belly, fried egg and aged cheddar. They'll also serve a riff on a traditional english breakfast with beans, tomato confit and sausage. At dinnertime, expect hand-cut pasta with fresh ingredients, fried chicken with smoked mashed potatoes and lake trout with olive oil/lemon polenta. Almost everything comes in under $20. Don't forget the donuts, in flavors like bourbon vanilla, nutella milkstout and, of course, bacon butterscotch.

The draft list will be all local, and there will be a small craft cocktail list, but don't expect crazy fireworks. Every day in the morning, they will be brewing up La Colombe coffee, with some locally-roasted guest stars brought in for the weekends.

We wish we could give you an opening date (though probably not as much as the brothers do) but they're still negotiating permits. Expect an opening soon, as the restaurant and kitchen are finished and ready to go. They're planning to open without a liquor license as soon as the inspections are complete, and then add the full drink list later.

Even while we were visiting, passers-by were knocking on the windows, peering inside or walking into the restaurant. After turning away one eager diner, Enoch remarked, "That’s the fifth person today." Clearly, the neighborhood is ready for some donuts.

endgrain is at 1851 W. Addison Street.