When Bill Montagne resigned from his executive chef duties at behemoth River North seafood spot C Chicago (a restaurant Chicago’s Jeff Ruby shared some choice words about), he was tired of managing a giant kitchen staff and longed to return to the simpler side of cheffing.
“It’s about completely regaining control,” Montagne says of his decision to open an ode to cured fish called Snaggletooth (2819 N. Southport Ave., Lake View) in late February with Jennifer Kim (Blackbird, Nico Osteria).
In sharp contrast to C Chicago, Snaggletooth has nothing to do with glitz and excess. Montagne and Kim will have zero employees, zero investors, and only around 17 seats at their bilevel counter-serve joint. “Neither one of us is rich, so we have to do something within our means,” Montagne offers.
What they are, though, is passionate about the art of fish-curing. The shop’s display will include composed salads and cured fish for takeaway—such as jasmine tea–cured sea trout—which will be sold by the quarter-pound.
The compact menu will feature a gravlax tartine served on a toasted half-bagel with charred scallion shmear. There will also be a DIY shmear bar with spreads made from Greek yogurt, rendering them lighter than their cream cheese counterparts. “A sandwich is as much about the garnishes as the fish,” says Montagne.
For a.m. commuters, Montagne promises a serious coffee and tea program with pour-overs, drip coffee, and a French press (roaster TBD), as well as Rare Tea Cellar teas and housemade cold-brew teas. Though the vibe is Jewish deli-inspired, don’t come seeking a turkey sandwich. “Seafood is our passion, and meats would dilute what we are doing. You can get a turkey sandwich anywhere,” Montagne says.
Just to drive things home, Montagne reiterates all the feels he associates with this new venture: “When you become a chef, you lose the connection of making people happy through food. I’m like a puppy dog: I lost that connection and want to get it back.”