Proprietor“It is an honor to serve every guest that walks in our front door,” says Amy Lawless. “I get a thrill whenever I enter our restaurant, see them and feel such an overwhelming sense of appreciation. This is what genuine Irish hospitality means to me.” It’s also why Lawless’ The Dearborn has become a veritable favorite for so many Chicagoans and travelers alike.
Growing up in Galway, Ireland, Lawless began working at her family’s restaurants and hotel at the age of 14. Like her siblings, she was steeped in the meaningfulness of the trade. Lawless would then row her way to a rowing scholarship at Boston University in 1998, where she earned a degree in sociology and psychology.
Lawless’ decision to move across the pond to attend school helped to inspire her family’s decision to transition their longstanding restaurant business to the U.S. Here, they opened The Irish Oak, Wrigleyville’s first authentic Irish pub, in Chicago. With hospitality playing an important role in Lawless’ formative years, she stepped into the family business upon graduation, first working as a bartender before moving into a management position—where she tackled everything from training the host team to crafting some of the North Side’s preeminent whiskey cocktails.
Lawless then initiated front-of-house duties at another family institution, The Gage on Michigan Avenue, in 2009. Seven years later, Amy opened The Dearborn, an elevated, urban American tavern with her sister Clodagh. “My sister is my best friend and my business partner,” she says. “I cannot imagine working with anyone else. As with every good relationship, the secret is trust and balance.” (Amy, alongside sister Clodagh, was honored as the outstanding Professional in Restaurant and Hospitality by the Professional Irish Women of Chicago.) At The Dearborn, Lawless enjoys working the floor and touching as many guests as she can.