“The eldest had apprenticed himself to a joiner and learned industriously and tirelessly and when the time came for him to be on his way, his master presented him with a little table which was not particularly beautiful and made of common wood, but which had one good property. If anyone set it out, and said, “table be set,” the good little table was at once covered with a clean little cloth, and a plate was there, and a knife and fork beside it, and dishes with boiled meats and roasted meats and a great glass of red wine shone so that it made the heart glad.”
This excerpt is from The Table, The Donkey & The Stick tale by the Brothers Grimm, and the name behind Matthew Sussman’s restaurant in Chicago’s Logan Square. “I loved stories growing up,” he recalls. “I was a huge reader under the blanket after lights out. . . . I think restaurants are about storytelling, they’re about sharing things.”
Sussman moved to Chicago in 2009. Always into bread baking, he bought some books and started a sourdough culture. A few years later, he found himself with 40 to 50 pounds of bread. “I was selling it to friends and colleagues,” he says.
Sussman only began working in restaurants after college, staging at the now-shuttered Bon Soirée in which Table, Donkey and Stick is currently housed. When Bon Soirée’s owner wanted to close, Sussman looked at it as a serendipitous opportunity, jumping into the deep end of restaurant ownership at just 25 years old.
Table, Donkey & Stick opened in December of 2012. “The foundation of the restaurant has been the housemade naturally leavened breads and housemade charcuterie, and the traditions that we draw upon are primarily from the European countries around the Alps,” he says. The kitchen is helmed by chef Justin Moser, who keeps a laser focus on seasonal ingredients in his ever-changing menu. Current dishes include squash tartine with grilled challah, Bartlett pear and pumpkin seed spread; lamb merguez with polenta, celery root and pickled cardoon; and sirloin with Concord grape glaze, carrot purée, grilled escarole and autumnal spices.
The restaurant received its first Bib Gourmand in the MICHELIN Guide Chicago 2015 selection. “It was really satisfying. It’s definitely had an impact in bringing us people who are interested in what we’re doing. And also it’s been a great honor for everyone who works here to achieve year after year.”