Client Spotlight – Fry the Coop & Found Kitchen
Fry the Coop…Nashville Hot Chicken in Chicago
A Bettie Bomb client for three years and counting, Fry the Coop has a great story and equally fantastic founder to match! Joe Fontana, a Chicago native (born & raised in Villa Park) was living in southern California with his wife. He was working with food, but not chicken. Meatballs were his passion, coming from an Italian-American family and he was participating in vendor markets and beyond trying to launch his meatball concept, Meatball Republic.
His partner, a real estate investor, found a commercial space in Chicago’s Oak Lawn neighborhood, so Joe travelled back to check it out. It was perfect…but not for meatballs. He had recently eaten a Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich in California and fell in love. He couldn’t get it off his mind and became addicted. He thought, what if we switched to Nashville Hot Chicken instead of meatballs? And Fry the Coop and it’s very first location was born.
Four Locations in Two Years and Counting…
In November 2017, Fry the Coop opened in Oak Lawn, a south suburb of Chicago and by fall 2018, opened its second location in Elmhurst, 18 miles west of the city. Both locations became a suburban favorite very quickly and started gaining the attention of Chicagoans. By 2019, Fry the Coop had a wonderful opportunity to be a part of Wells Street Market, a food hall in Chicago’s bustling Loop area featuring other top food businesses such as Tabo Sushi, Fare, Firecakes Donuts, Dos Toros and more. They operate one of the food stalls and are now a Loop lunch favorite Monday-Friday. Just minutes from downtown, is the 4th location in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. Located directly off of Chicago Avenue, this is the first location to offer full bar service and cocktail growlers to-go. In 2020, they are heading back to the suburbs working on locations five and six. Projected for fall 2020, Tinley Park and Prospect Heights are planned to open and will be the first locations with drive thru service! Even during a global pandemic, Fry the Coop hasn’t stopped.
When the world changed in March, Fry the Coop closed the dining room but never closed its doors. They stayed open for curbside pickup, delivery and offering cocktail & beer growlers to-go throughout the pandemic. Not only did they keep feeding their customers, but they set up a donation match program where customers could donate any amount to help feed first responders and they would match it. They started in late March and still continue to donate meals to local hospitals & first responders multiple times a week to date. They’re launching Fry the Coop merchandise available on their website and 100% proceeds will benefit My Block, My Hood, My City. Indoor dining remains closed, but they continue to work tirelessly to feed their customers and support their communities.
Found Kitchen…True Farm-to-Table in Evanston
Restaurateur Amy Morton, daughter of the legendary Morton’s Steakhouse founder Arnie Morton and James Beard award-winning and Top Chef Masters competitor Chef Debbie Gold are Found Kitchen. A true farm-to-table restaurant, it’s modern American whimsical fare in a boho vintage-inspired atmosphere located in downtown Evanston.
“HerStory” of these Hospitality Veterans
Hospitality comes easily to Amy, who grew up in the industry working alongside her father, legendary restaurateur Arnie Morton of Morton’s Steakhouses. Morton’s natural ability to connect with guests was paralleled only by her father’s. After years of learning from her father, Amy opened her first restaurant, The Café, with her brother Michael Morton (of Nine Steakhouse and La Cave) in 1988 in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. She went on to open her best-known endeavors, Mirador and The Blue Room, in the Old Town neighborhood soon after in 1989. After years in the industry, in 2002, Amy took at 10-year hiatus from the industry to raise her three daughters and in 2012, came back strong founding her restaurant group aptly named AMDP, an acronym for “Arnie Morton’s Daughters Place” in memory of and honor to her Dad. AMDP currently operates four concepts including Found Kitchen!
Chef Debbie Gold is a James Beard Foundation Award-winner and four-time nominee, Bravo’s Top Chef Masters competitor and held her first Chef position with Restaurateur Amy Morton at Mirador in 1993. Shortly after, Gold then turned her sights to Kansas City to begin a stellar twenty-year run; named Executive Chef of The American Restaurant, where she won a James Beard Foundation Award for “Best Midwest Chef.” A few years later, she opened her own spot, 40 Sardines, which garnered Gold a coveted James Beard Foundation nomination for “Best New Midwest Restaurant.”
In 2017, Gold found her way back to her hometown of Chicago as the Executive Chef of Tied House, where after opening, she was given three stars by Phil Vettel, exclaiming “Chef Debbie Gold shines in return to Chicago’s dining scene.” Two years later, she was reconnected with restaurateur Amy Morton and joined her as Executive Chef of Found Kitchen + Social House. These kindred spirits, who cut their teeth with each other on their first endeavor, have a paralleled passion for all things local and are destined to do great things.
Fast forward to 2020…these ladies have been doing A LOT to weather the pandemic and adapt their business models. AND this all happened right after the two reconnected 27 years since they worked together on Amy’s first restaurant in 1993. Debbie was just ready to put her culinary stamp on the Evanston eatery by launching her menu…that was the first week of March.
When COVID-19 hit, these two ladies quickly got to work on the following ALL while running curbside pickup and feeding over 100 people in the homeless community every morning through Connections for the Homeless in Evanston. They opened Found Pantry aka general store with local farm produced boxes, top quality meat, eggs, cheese, booze + dry pantry items and other toiletries…even tampons! Next, they started preparing weekly family meals; cocktails to go; and even opened Three Sisters Juice, a juice bar with proceeds benefiting Black Lives Matter). On June 26, they reopened Found Kitchen and continue to evolve by opening Found ALL DAY, giving guests the opportunity to hang at “Found Cafe” and enjoy coffee, fresh-pressed juice and smoothies from Three Sisters Juice bar, hummus and vegetables, salads, sandwiches and more…dine-in or grab & go.
These ladies are unstoppable and were excited to see what they’re up to next…