Do you constantly check the time? Obsess over your to-do list? Are you already wondering how long reading this review will take?
First of all, three minutes. Second, then you need to book a dinner at Dear Margaret, because this small French-Canadian restaurant in Lakeview excels in the art of the leisurely dinner. It plies you with delicious food and lovely service until you eventually just stop caring about your never-ending to-do list.
A meal here doesn’t happen so much as it unfolds, like a map to a remote Canadian village populated by incredible chefs. It’s not that things move at a frustratingly glacial pace, but the combination of the cozy space, downtempo music, and casual, incredibly friendly service is just relaxing. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself lost in a bowl of incredible rabbit ragu, without any concern over what time it is, or irritating tasks like renewing your city sticker.
The menu changes seasonally, but you can always expect perfectly executed dishes with little touches to keep things interesting. In the aforementioned rabbit ragu, the braised rabbit is paired with tender duck fat-fried gnocchi, and served in a jus that tastes like it came from the combined power of a thousand Thumpers. The creamy foie gras torchon is cured with bourbon chai and orange, then spread on fluffy housemade milk bread. Spiced sesame granola adds a little crunch to a plate of duck breast and lentils that’s one legume away from making us move to a cabin in Quebec’s countryside.
When you finally remember to check the time (after worrying for a second you’re about to have a Night At The Museum situation on your hands) you should still order a piece of maple chevre cheesecake, or some chocolatey Nanaimo bars for dessert. After all, what’s the rush? It doesn’t matter that you need to be up early to run errands - Target isn’t going to miss you, and you don’t need to be anywhere else but here.
We don’t know what version of this dish you’ll encounter here, but we do know it’ll be good. We’ve had a few incarnations of the torchon, and the most recent was our favorite. The torchon was cured with bourbon chai tea and orange, and topped with brandied cherry and toasted almonds. It was a wonderful combination of savory, salty, and sweet. But it would all be meaningless without the fantastic milk buns that go with it.
There are always a few lighter, vegetable dishes on the menu, so make sure to have at least one on the table. Like the charred cabbage, where tender leaves of roasted cabbage are topped with parmesan and bagna càuda. It reminds us of an evolved Caesar salad.
We’re not sure who Dear Margaret’s “bone guy” is, but they’re great. The bones are always huge, and full of perfectly rendered marrow. That fatty meat butter is delicious on its own, but the addition of pickled smoked beef tongue and slices of toasted milk bread is what makes this dish really special.
This rich bowl of braised rabbit, lobster mushroom, and duck fat gnocchi makes us want to move to Quebec and become fur trappers. In other words, you should order this.
French lentils and seared duck breast is a classic combo for a reason - they go really well together. And the addition of spiced sesame granola makes the version at Dear Margaret more delicious than the other versions we’ve tried.
This is a distinctly Canadian dessert (it’s named after the city of Nanaimo in British Columbia) and one we very much enjoy. It’s a layered bar with a graham cracker, coconut, and walnut base, custard icing center, chocolate ganache top, and whipped crème fraîche on the side. It’s a perfectly sweet way to end a meal.