Though Second Street Bistro has , it hasn't taken long for the North Shore's first BYOB restaurant to build a following.
"We had to turn people away last Friday and Saturday," Bobby Dubin, the owner of the Highland Park restaurant said last week. And on a Tuesday, typically a slow night for any restaurant, Dubin said all but two tables were taken.
"They're going nuts over the food."
The food is certainly novel. The menu emphasizes locally grown, organic meat and produce and chef Michael Gottlieb stresses a philosophy of simple foods with creative preparation. What's available in the restaurant varies depending on the food that's available to the restaurant, but current hot commodities include cauliflower soup, an autumn salad and a very popular whitefish.
"We went through 19 orders of whitefish on Saturday," Gottlieb said. "The fish was swimming 24 hours before it was served."
Though Second Street Bistro is a new venture for Dubin, who also owns in the same storefront, the response to this foray into a different kind of dining has been positive.
"The food is fantastic," said Chicago resident Marlene Rosenberg, who came to Second Street Bistro last Wednesday with her cousin, Highland Park resident Barbara Abrams. "The salmon was cooked to perfection."
The two shared the autumn salad, and Abrams had the trout, which she said had "a quality like a foodie place in the city."
"It was a wonderful presentation, with an unusual range of flavors."
Abrams and Rosenberg also took advantage of the unique BYOB component Second Street Bistro offers. They shared a bottle of wine they bought from .
"The concept of BYO is fantastic," Abrams said. "The cost is not prohibitive and it makes it fun.
"This kind of food," she added with a smile, "You need a glass of wine with."
The sentiment is exactly what Dubin is hoping for. The restaurant owner explained that he decided to make the bistro BYOB in order to make going out to dinner less expensive.
"I don't care who you are," Dubin said. "Today, you're watching your dollars."
And it's not just wine people are showing up with. Dubin said he's seen guests pull out bottles of vodka at the restaurant to make cocktails. People that see friends eating at nearby tables walk over for a drink.
"It's just been a party atmosphere," Dubin said, adding that on at 10:30 p.m. on a recent night the restaurant still had seven tables full.
"That's very unusual," Dubin said. "In Highland Park, people don't stay out late."
Dubin hinted that he may open up Stashs to include seating for the bistro on weekend nights, when the place gets more crowded, because it "makes you sick to start turning people away." He also said the bistro may host a New Year's Eve dinner, which would also be BYOB.
"Can you imagine going somewhere on New Year's Eve and not having to spend money on booze?" Dubin asked.
The restauranteur feels that, with the BYOB angle, he's stumbled onto something he's confident will catch on throughout the North Shore. Abrams agrees, and hopes the creativity inspires more like it in the city.
"I really, really like the fact that this is a stand alone," Abrams said. "I'd like to see more of that in Highland Park."