Serious Eats: Chicago
City Provisions Closes
From the moment I walked in City Provisions, it was clear that it was doing something different. I mean, just look at that glorious corned beef sandwich pictured above. Have you ever seen anything like that? Where most places were content to serve stringy, tough meat, this version looked more like fat-streaked prosciutto. The flavor was deeper, richer, and more beguiling. As many have already noted, owner Cleetus Friedman put the same amount of care into every other product sold at the Ravenswood deli.
So, it's with much sadness that we report that City Provisions closed on Monday. In an email sent out last night, Friedman thanked the community for its support and declared that he wasn't exactly going away. But he also admitted that the high cost of purchasing sustainable ingredients was the main issue: "While I gave everything I had every day of the week to all of my staff, vendors, and guests, in the end I found that sustainability—an undying commitment to what that means—wasn't sustainable."
Check out the full note below.
As of Monday January 28th I am closing the City Provisions Delicatessen.
I guess there is something to be said about committing to a mission. And perhaps there is a reason why there is nothing like City Provisions.
While I gave everything I had every day of the week to all of my staff, vendors, and guests, in the end I found that sustainability - an undying commitment to what that means - wasn't sustainable. While it looked great from the outside, on the inside we faced many challenges. The praise that hangs on my wall and the Internet speaks to my passion, and that will never change.
I could have bought different milk. Different eggs. I could have used non eco-friendly parchment paper. I could sent everything to landfill. I could have used an inferior product. I could have had a Sysco truck deliver my food and have one person work a deep fryer and microwave. I consciously chose to do things one way. Maybe I was stubborn. I was committed to doing what I believed to be the right thing.
Real food takes not just passion, but labor. And these numbers add up. The fact is, I put the same level of ingredients and labor into a sandwich, chips and pickle that my colleagues are putting into a $25 entree. Perhaps we, as a community, are not prepared to take on the challenge of a $15 - $20 lunch ticket, but I know I tried to do it the best way, true to my ideals and focused on creating the best product possible.
I made many connections and fostered many relationships that led to great things, which is has always been part of my purpose. I love and have been embraced by the Ravenswood community-but this location simply does not produce the type of foot traffic a business like City Provisions needs to be financially viable.
I cannot fail to mention how amazing, supportive, and committed my entire staff has been. I also want to thank the our guests, from the regulars to those who came in yesterday for the first time.
I have no doubt that my next step will parlay all I have learned and turn into a great move. I fully intend to continue the brand I have built for myself by supporting the local food movement, coming up with unique collaborations, and sharing my Farm Dinner series.
As the future unfolds, I plan to keep pushing the boundaries of the local food movement and keeping you excited about the world I am living in...so stay tuned.
I thank you all for your undying support and look forward to informing you of the next steps.
Thank you for your support!
Chef Cleetus Friedman