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Meet Michael Dunlay of Dunlays on Clark in Lincoln Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Dunlay.

Michael, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In January of 2003, my cousin Doug Dunlay and I decided to open a restaurant in honor of our dad’s and our Irish heritage… We found the perfect spot on the corner of Clark St and Wrightwood Ave. It took us four months to build out the interior (it used to be the Clark St Bistro). We served great American Classics like a great burger, turkey burger, fish sandwich, steak, pork, chicken and fresh fish of the day. We had a few wonderfully delicious salads, some great sides and fantastic desserts. We made everything in house.

We prided ourselves on customer service and consistent high-quality food and delicious drinks from the bar. Within two years, we opened 3 more restaurants (Dunlays on the Square, The Smoke Daddy, and D.O.C. Wine Bar). We currently have 11 restaurants spread out over all of Chicago (Frasca Pizzeria, another D.O.C. Wine Bar, Crosby’s Kitchen, Remington’s, The Windsor, Tuco & Blondie, and Ella Elli). We will be opening #12 (Smoke Daddy at Wrigley) in March 2018.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Relatively smooth. We are a neighborhood restaurant Group (4 Star Restaurant Group) named after the four stars in the Chicago flag. The Restaurant Industry is thought of as a part-time job, so retention is difficult…although we have had some of our same employees since we opened.

Dunlays on Clark – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Consistent delicious food with excellent service. We pride ourselves on that since many of customers come to dine multiple times a week (some say we are an extension of their kitchen.

We are well known for quite a few of our dishes, but the top three would be our Turkey Burger, the Wrightwood Salad (#1 seller companywide) and the skillet chocolate chip cookie (#2 seller) for dessert.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Seeing happy faces coming and leaving our restaurants.

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