Batter and Berries serves up gratitude and good food

Housed in the neighborhood of Lincoln Park, it would be hard to miss the awning of yellow and purple atop the Black-owned breakfast locale, Batter and Berries (B&B). For many, this is a sight to look forward to, as crowds tend to line out the door, with each customer waiting for their spot to dine in the restaurant.

Awarding this patience, B&B is quick to treat its patrons. Customers are immediately greeted by an interior paved with bright walls and even flashier merchandise, as the decoration alone could be enough to draw in an audience. However, people come here to eat and talk, as the space facilitates both facets.

A staff composed of apt bussers, attentive servers and welcoming hosts work to uphold these values. Amidst this positive chaos, an onlooking manager sets this bar of service from open to close, stepping in wherever he is needed.

Frederick Williams, manager for B&B, has worked at B&B for over 10 years, having learned lessons of profession and life while at the restaurant.

“Gratitude sets the tone,” Williams said. “Gratitude and perspective have given me confidence, insight and wisdom that things often will and do work out. B&B has established a culture of feeling good, happy and content and it’s something we set out to replicate each day.”

It was nearly 11 years ago that Tanya and Craig Richardson established a new but inviting breakfast joint on Lincoln Ave. Their shared dream, built by a family with open arms to any cook, server or customer that wanted in the doors, was first founded through the couple’s limited schedules.

Craig, a former sales rep for State Farm, was tabbed with a standard 9–5 work week while his wife Tanya, a physician in practice, led a less orderly agenda. Rarely finding space between their calendars, the mornings seemed to be the only time the two were free. Thankfully, they shared a love for food that would soon fill these open hours.

They would go on to scout the city for its breakfast scene, with weekly dates turning into tradition as the couple ramped up their outings. Finding numerous cultures and styles under an umbrella of customer service, every visit offered something new. In time, they too thought they had something to add.

With a vision built off the principles of supporting local business and community, the couple’s first step in establishing a brand was in finding its name. Settling on B&B, they needed an artisan to support the creation of their cuisine.

It would be the talents of Chicago native Ken Polk who would ordain their back-of-house with over 25 years of culinary experience. This knowledge would carry over to the menu, as both Richardson’s and Polk began to create their staple offerings.

Breakfast being their claim to fame, an assortment of sweet and savory, often fusing the two together, became the space’s trademark. Cheese-crusted hashbrowns, spicy pork sausage and butter infused with maple syrup were samples of what would be available at the new location. But, they still needed a standout item.

Finding a totem that would utilize both ends of their business name, brioche was their answer. A roster of flavors in mixed berry, strawberry, lemon French and caramel French made up their World Famous French Toast Flight, with a little extra panache being left over.

That excess was put to use in making The Super Flight, an offering that would add a fifth style of toast that would change with each week, with customers able to purchase this version for only a few dollars extra.

In all this work, their pursuits seemed cemented, but they still lacked a location to house their efforts.

They first aimed for a spot on the South Side of Chicago but failed to find any luck in accommodation. With owners less willing to sell towards a cause as erratic as the restaurant business, the couple would take their sights north. A change in scenery would end up paying off in no time.

Finding their new home along North Lincoln Avenue, the Batter and Berries family would open their doors in 2012. Carried by a unique menu and welcoming environment, the brand has since seen no sign of slowing down, both in and outside the city limits.

Last month would see them open a second location in Olympia Fields, a south suburb of Chicago. This move was a decade in the making. The next stop along the brunch train is already in the works, as the couple has made plans to open a location on the West Side of the city.

Craig Richardson, of the B&B duo, commented on the business’s values and how it has carried the brand thus far.

“My three favorite words are please and thank you,” Richardson said. “Just in saying these words acknowledges that someone is putting effort into helping you do something. Everything I’m going to ask you to do is in the benefit of the restaurant, and that benefit trickles down.”

With a staff that has stuck around since opening, these words have gone a long way. The B&B family continues to grow with the promotion of new locations. The same standard of loyalty between employees and management is found in those that come to dine.

“I can’t get enough of Batter,” said Jessie Carnegie-Toutant, DePaul freshman and breakfast patron. “It’d be a shame to not give this place the attention it deserves, especially knowing that it’s some of the best breakfast I could ever get.”

In creating its trickling effect of positivity, from owners to staff to customers, B&B serves the community by providing a space to practice community. As the business continues to expand its reach, the Richardson’s are set on the mission of Batter and its growing family.

“People are just people,” Richardson said.“We all have good and bad days, so why not always make an effort to say please and thank you.”