The Story of Dirty Root: As they entered their professional careers, Matt Dobleman and Connor Lacy, long-time friends who met in high school, often found it difficult to get quick dining options that wouldn’t result in an afternoon brain fog. The duo began a journey to better understand the connection between what they ate and how they felt and after months of research on all things nutrition, they came to understand the importance of eating a diet consisting of real, nutrient-dense foods. No longer satisfied with the options available, they took matters into their own hands to create Dirty Root.
With this new concept, they will introduce Chicago to their take on a fast-casual restaurant whose mission is to cultivate a healthy lifestyle through food.
“We really want to help others understand the importance of eating food straight from the earth, which is where Dirty Root gets its name,” says Dobleman. “Life is busy and sometimes it’s hard to find the time to take care of yourself. So if we can make great-tasting, real food more accessible, then that’s a good thing.”
The Venue: The 1,200 square foot space will feature a quick-service counter for guests to build their custom bowl as they work their way down the display line. Designed to streamline the grab-and-go experience, Dirty Root will have minimal indoor seating, but will have additional patio seating during the summer months. Guests will be able to learn where ingredients are being sourced through educational boards decorating the walls of the space. The restaurant will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
Menu Preview + The Chef: With a background in fine-dining at several highly-acclaimed restaurants around the country, Chef Milius will focus on a menu that highlights local, seasonal produce and proteins mindfully sourced from reliable partners including Genesis Growers and Nichols Farms. His dishes at Dirty Root will be gluten-free and avoid the use of refined sugar, GMOs, canola oil and other industrial vegetable and seed oils.
Guests can look forward to hearty bowls for lunch and dinner, beginning with a choice of three bases: ancient grains, farmer’s greens or a cauliflower rice and mushroom pilaf. They will then choose two sides from a variety of vegetable-based, hot and cold options such as a summer cabbage slaw or za’atar spiced carrots, followed by a choice of four different proteins. The bowls are finished with one of five flavorful sauces, all made in-house. Dirty Root will offer a limited breakfast menu in addition to lunch and dinner. They will also serve organic drip coffee from Kickapoo Coffee Roasters and select retail items from companies such as Vital Proteins, Waterloo Sparkling Water, The New Primal (grass-fed beef jerky), and Alter Eco (dark chocolate).
“I am really excited to join forces with these two guys to further a mission that I personally believe in,” says Milius. “Growing up on the West Coast, fresh, local ingredients have always been second nature to me and I look forward to diving into my roots and sharing my experience with others in the West Loop.”
About Matt Dobleman, Co-founder: An Omaha native, Matt Dobleman’s passion for healthy living stems from his own experiences as a young office professional. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, he moved to New York to study at Fordham University School of Law. While practicing as a finance lawyer, the high stress environment and long days sitting in front of a computer began to take a toll on his physical well-being. Searching for ways to improve his health, he immersed himself in all things nutrition and clean eating. He altered his diet by reducing sugar and removing processed foods, instead focusing on whole, nutrient-dense fare.
With a newfound appreciation for better-for-you food, he noticed a lack of locally sourced, nutrient-dense, quick-dining options and saw an opportunity to make a change. He teamed up with long-time friend (and fellow Notre Dame alum) Connor Lacy and together they developed a fast-casual, healthy dining concept in Dirty Root. Dobleman and Lacy aim to craft a restaurant that inspires others to lead healthier lives through, wholesome, mindfully-sourced foods.
About Connor Lacy, Co-founder: As Co-Founder, Connor Lacy brings nearly 10 years of finance and accounting experience to Dirty Root. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, he received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and became a Certified Public Accountant. In 2010, Lacy joined Deloitte’s Chicago office as a Tax Consultant before moving back home to Omaha to work as the Director of Operations for The McFarland Group, where he focused on strategic planning and exit strategies for privately-held businesses.
During his time there, he worked closely with owners and operators and became inspired by their vision and dedication to building companies with exceptional cultures. Around that time, he began discussing an idea with long-time friend and Co-Founder Matt Dobleman to bring a fast-casual, healthy dining concept to the Midwest. With a strong entrepreneurial spirit, Lacy joins forces with Dobleman to bring Dirty Root to life. He is excited to deliver clean, locally-sourced food to the West Loop.
About Justin Milius, Culinary Director: A veteran of the hospitality industry, Justin Milius brings more than 20 years of culinary experience to Dirty Root. Growing up in Saratoga, California, Milius’s passion for cooking started with his first foray in the kitchen at local restaurant, Brandon’s, where Chef Ron Levi taught him classic French cooking techniques. After earning a degree in culinary arts from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, he further refined his fine-dining expertise working at several prestigious California restaurants including Plumpjack, Jardinière and two Michelin-starred Acquerello, before moving to Boulder, Colorado to work at Frasca Food and Wine, a winner of multiple James Beard awards.
In 2011, Milius moved to Chicago where he joined the team at The Purple Pig (2010 “10 Best New Restaurants in America” by Bon Appétit, Michelin Bib Gourmand), working as a sous chef under James Beard Award winning Chef Jimmy Banos Jr. Then in 2013, he took a role as a sous chef at Boka Restaurant Group and B Hospitality’s acclaimed Italian restaurant, Balena (2012 “50 Best New Restaurants” by Bon Appetit, James Beard Nominee for Best New Restaurant), where he continued to fuel his passion for utilizing seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients alongside Chef Chris Pandel. From there, he joined the team at Calihan Catering to lead culinary operations for notable venues such as the Lyric Opera House and Millennium Park.
Throughout his entire career, a consistent theme has been Milius’s passion for connecting with local farmers and carefully sourcing the highest quality ingredients. Now in collaboration with Co-Founders Matt Dobleman and Connor Lacy at Dirty Root, Justin brings this mindful approach to an innovative fast casual concept.