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Down to Business: Dundee building and location called to her: 'I just knew what it would be perfect for,' restaurant owner says

Kathleen Bergeron said it was the building that first appealed to her when she decided to open Mockingbird Bar + Garden in downtown East Dundee in fall 2018.

Business: Mockingbird Bar + Garden

Address: 217 Barrington Ave., East Dundee


Contact info: 847-551-5614;;https

Owner: Kathleen Bergeron


Time in business: Seven months.

What does this business do? Mockingbird has been designed to become a community gathering place. We serve a menu that is very vegetable-forward. All the food comes out of a wood-fired oven … so no fryer, no grill, no stove. We have four pizzas that are all equally delicious but very different. One of them is a wood-roasted mushroom with Parmesan and roasted garlic-porcini oil. If you love mushrooms you will love this pizza because there are a ton of mushrooms. We have a kale and fennel sausage pizza, a Calabrian salami with provolone and hand-crushed tomato pizza, and our blended cheese with arugula, lemon and Parmesan pizza. All of our items are sourced locally so the menu changes very frequently.”

Why did you start this business? “It wasn’t like I always wanted a restaurant. Years ago when I was in the restaurant business and working for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, it did get into my blood but it was really the building that was calling. The building came first. When it went up for sale I knew the potential of it being on the bike path and part of a semi-pedestrian lifestyle, which I think is super important. So it started off as the location and then I just knew what it would be perfect for.”

How did you choose the name? “I wanted something that was timeless, something that was lighthearted, something that could sound like a dive bar or a four-star restaurant, and that it would organically become who it’s supposed to become.”

What is your favorite item on the Mockingbird menu? “It changes. It used to be the wood-fired cauliflower with the saffron yogurt. Right now it’s probably the wood-fired artichokes with lemon caper aioli. The pizzas depend on my mood. I teeter between the Calabrian and mushroom.”

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What should first-time customers definitely try? “They should have at least three small plates and a pizza pie. Get the pizza, even if it’s for dessert.”

What’s the best thing about being in East Dundee? “The sense of community. The fact that we’re on the bicycle path so we have tons of exposure and healthy energy. We’ve become an oasis for people on the path. People coming from mostly Barrington, St. Charles, people from Crystal Lake and Elgin … it’s been fascinating. I’m overwhelmed with the amount of people that aren’t from around here. I met this lovely couple from Glenview. They come to Dundee once a week and ride the path. That is a true compliment to the Fox River Trail.”

What’s the biggest challenge? “I think we need to overcome a misperception of East Dundee. When people come here now they’re so pleasantly surprised and they’re like, ‘This is East Dundee?’ They’re surprised by the development and the sense of community and the people everywhere out walking. It’s truly charming. And being a West Dundee resident myself, I’ve been shocked as I leave Mockingbird at night all the people walking along Main Street and crossing the bridge between East and West Dundee. We are definitely attracting a younger more vibrant group of visitors and residents."


What is the thing you most like to do as part of your business? “Connect with the guests and serve them and educate them on our food, and talk about our ingredients, our farmers who are bringing us our produce and eggs. It’s a really cool piece. So many people come in who for example, never eat seafood but love the whitefish pate. Or there are people who say, ‘I don’t eat vegetables but oh my god, this is so delicious.’ We pride ourselves on being a place where people can have food they’ve never tried before that’s literally sourced from a couple of miles where they live.”

Who comes up with Mockingbird’s recipes? “I actually came up with the original menu, which was designed for our small kitchen. The menu changes when something becomes unavailable to us locally or ethically. Our chef, Kyle Bart, is really great at going to the farm, seeing what’s seasonally available, creating something amazing, and then we add it to the menu. He does an amazing job.”

What is your least favorite thing to do as part of your business? “There’s not much I don't like around here. I don’t even mind washing dishes.”

What do you wish someone had told you before you started? “That I wouldn’t want to leave. I didn’t think I’d be spending so much time here. And I can’t imagine not spending so much time here. It feels like it’s my home and when I leave and there are still guests here, it almost feels like I’m leaving people at my house. I think it has to do with the size and intimacy. Because it’s so small I literally talk to everyone. I want everybody to feel welcome here. It doesn’t matter if you just came off of a construction site or just left some high-powered business meeting … I want everyone to sit at this bar and connect.”