In 2018, The Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman Billy Corgan closed his teashop after six years in suburban Chicago. Now, despite COVID-19 challenges to the restaurant industry, he and his partner, fashion designer Chloe Mendel, have revived Madame Zuzu’s. The vegan cafe opened for indoor dining and takeout in the city’s Highland Park neighborhood over Labor Day weekend.
The plant-based menu features bowls and sandwiches, including tofu bánh mì, meatball subs, grilled cheese, and salad niçoise. Pastries, made daily, include vegan donuts and breakfast cakes.
Mendel aims to keep the menu affordable. The meatball sub, which features Impossible Foods’ vegan meat, costs under $10. The grilled cheese (with housemade coconut oil-based cheese) is $8.
Drinks are the most luxurious item on the menu. Rare Tea Seller, a local company that specializes in rare ingredients, supplies the tea. In addition to loose leaf tea, the menu includes matcha, lions mane mushroom coffee, and reishi cappuccinos.
‘We Want to Be Involved in the Community’
“Our goal is to bring good, quality food to Highland Park. We want to be involved in the community,” Mendel told Eater Chicago. She hopes that Madame Zuzu’s will offer locals something healthy to eat while many are still staying at home.
Corgan opened the original Madame Zuzu’s in Chicago in 2012. He wanted to create a unique space that channeled the art deco interiors of the 1930s. “It has a whimsical feel to it … it’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time in terms of space, but what we put into the space will change,” Corgan told Eater Chicago in 2011.
The original Madame Zuzu’s was far too small to accommodate diners and the couple’s future plans, which include a retail section for tea accessories and records. The old location also hosted comedy nights and music shows (sometimes Corgan himself took the stage). Such events are currently prohibited due to the pandemic. But they aim to revive social events in the future in the art deco-inspired shop.
Madame Zuzu’s is located on 1876 First Street in Highland Park and is open Tuesday through Sunday.