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Saturday, January 31

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Foodporn Fri Jan 30 2015

Friday Foodpic: Donut Fest 2015

unnamed2.jpgLast Sunday's Donut Fest at Chop Shop was filled to the brim with folks like myself; it was nice to finally be around my fellow donut-lovers in a place where we can let loose and just be ourselves. The panel of judges gave their unanimous approval to a lovely vanilla raised donut from Firecakes; the audience favorite was a doughssant from West Town Bakery (I personally loved the Goddess and Grocer's contribution, a red velvet with lemon cream cheese frosting, pictured atop the plate). Good times.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Review Thu Jan 29 2015

The Promontory Proves That it's On Point

Promontory Restaurant - Bar.jpgIt's both a good and bad thing that The Promontory is in Hyde Park -- good because the latest project from the folks behind Longman & Eagle is helping contribute to the University of Chicago's growing Harper Court project, bad because a majority of Chicagoans will likely not make the trek out there to experience it.

Located weirdly behind an Akira, The Promontory takes a cue from its sister venue Dusek's with a live music hall, continuing what I hope is a growing trend of blending dining with entertainment. The space is visually appealing with floor to ceiling windows and a greenhouse touch, and it's attracting the same in the people visiting it. Don't go there in your Sunday casual, unless your Sunday casual is J. Crew.

The menu, a collaboration of Executive Chef Jared Wentworth and Chef de Cuisine Matt Sliwinski, is driven around the kitchen's open hearth -- think elevated campfire preparation and a kitchen that is not afraid to cook like our ancestors did, straight over an open fire with flames licking at their forearms.

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Brandy Gonsoulin / Comments (1)

Event Wed Jan 28 2015

The Best of Restaurant Week

chicago-restaurant-week-2015njn.pngChicago Restaurant Week, the annual event that kicks off this Friday fot twelve days of specially priced prix-fixe lunch and dinners at over 300 restaurants in the city, was a real novelty when it first began several years ago. I could now eat at restaurants that I normally couldn't afford to even walk past, so I felt pretty classy when I rolled up to Naha for my table for one. I marveled over every course in the exquisite dining room as I ate my lunch surrounded by suits with fancy job titles. I was so charmed by everything that when I mindlessly left my camera in the cab that took me back to work afterwards, I promptly ordered its replacement. Life was too short for bad food and no way to take photos.

The event has grown in size, but still has good competition. Naha's Restaurant Week menu this year looks as good as ever, with extremely intriguing offerings from Table 52, Balena, West Town's Two, Wicker Park's Trencherman, and River North's Nico Osteria. Even culinary schools are getting into it, with the dining room at Kendall College and the Washburne Culinary Institute-staffed Parrot Cage at the South Shore Cultural Center offering menus. And if all this overwhelms, you can even eat at the grocery store. You can sample some of this year's participating restaurants at Thursday's First Bites Bash at Union Station, which doubles as a benefit for Inspiration Corporation.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Openings Fri Jan 23 2015

Leggin' It to Leghorn Cafe

leghorncafe.jpgLeghorn is fast food--but not. You may be able to get a paper-wrapped chicken sandwich in under five minutes, but you can take all other assumptions you have about fast food and shove it. That's what Leghorn Chicken and their new River North outpost, Leghorn Cafe, suggest--with a smile, of course.

The Element Collective (Old Town Social, Nellcôte) and their "socially-conscious chicken" endeavor first opened March 2014 in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood, where they have since been encouraging loud music, sustainable kitchens, and being open on Sundays. Presenting their menu as a sort of choose-your-own-adventure (chicken edition), Leghorn offers a choice of thigh or breast meat, Nashville hot or pickle-brined on a housemade biscuit or bun. What could be better? Well, putting an egg on it, obviously. Enter Leghorn Cafe.

leghorncafe2.jpgLocated on Lasalle and Ohio, Leghorn Cafe introduces the humble biscuit and egg sandwich, with your choice of a few flashy options: bacon, ham, maple-sage sausage, or some devilish combination thereof. This is clearly a nod to the Egg McMuffin, in every sense from the packaging to the butter-oozing biscuit. Sides include cheddar tots, a yogurt parfait, local "donut of the day" (!) and as much Sumpton Coffee as you can handle (!!!). The location itself is comfy and bright, with choices of bar seats or booths--cozy but not cramped. After breakfast ends at 10:30, the menu switches back to the classic Leghorn offerings you're already familiar with.

Whether you're grabbing food on your commute to work or lingering over your chicken sandwich, Leghorn's worth checking out. Skipping Chik-fil-a has never been this easy.

Leghorn Cafe is located at 600 N. Lasalle. Second picture from Element Collective.

Danielle Snow / Comments (0)

Foodporn Fri Jan 23 2015

Friday Foodpic: Plein Air Cafe

shbfo fiurj.jpgPicture by Drew Baker from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Event Wed Jan 21 2015

Young Chefs Battle for Regional Winner of Almost Famous Chef Competition

Food competitions are the best kind of sport--you gain weight instead of losing it, and lethal weapons are allowed. Between "Top Chef," "Knife Fight" and all of Food Network's programming, there's no shortage of TV shows where chefs chop and season away for the culinary crown. In Chicago, local competitions take place throughout the year and don't always require contestants to be established chefs. I recently attended the S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Regional Competition, an event dedicated to discovering and promoting young culinary talent across the nation. The VIP dinner took place at Kendall College, judged by a panel of culinary stars, including Chris Duffy (Grace) and Sarah Grueneberg ("Top Chef"). Though every contestant had to use the same set of pre-selected ingredients, the menu showed a diverse array of techniques:

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Judy Wu / Comments (0)

Event Tue Jan 20 2015

Soup, Poutine, Bacon & Beer Vie for Your Stomach

baconfest poutinefestSo many food festivals these days -- and let's not even mention the endless schedule of beer fests that now litter the calendar. But you know what? They all taste good, so let's keep on having them.

The Chicago Soup Takedown, an offshoot of the popular Bacon Takedown that also spawned a mac'n'cheese takedown last year, is happening this Sunday, Jan. 25 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave. For $20, attendees sample soups from a combination of amateur and professional chefs, and vote on their favorites. Apparently there are still a couple spots open for additional chefs, so if you have a killer soup recipe and a competitive streak, sign up for battle by emailing

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Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Foodporn Fri Jan 16 2015

Friday Foodpic: Bagels & Bialys

15744989480_8d1f807b2c_z.jpgPicture of New York Bagel and Bialy by Karen Christensen from the Drive-Thru Flickr Pool.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Restaurant Mon Jan 12 2015

Game of Thrones Themed Dinner at Elizabeth Restaurant

unnamed.jpgCalling all souls who wish to feast upon the delicacies of Chicago! From April 3rd to the May 16th, Elizabeth Restaurant will be offering a Game of Thrones themed dinner. The Michelin-starred restaurant will be serving 12-15 courses inspired by the HBO show, and tickets can be purchased online at $55/person. Will they be serving lemon cakes and fresh stallion hearts? Perhaps Dornish plums and black bread? Dinner begins at 7:30pm, and guests are encouraged to dress up. For this special menu, they will not accommodate allergies and dietary restrictions for this meal is not for the weak of spirit. (Westeros) Wine, Beer, and Non-alcoholic pairings available with ticket purchase.

Elizabeth Restaurant

4835 North Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625
(773) 681-0651

Judy Wu / Comments (0)

Foodporn Fri Jan 09 2015

Friday Foodpic: The Best of 2014

unnamedojj.jpgNow that the tree is down, here's a few of the best things we ate this past year.

Jen Bacher and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving Eve dinner at Portage Park's Leadbelly. The Easy Rider burger (pictured), a tower of bacon, sriracha pickles, BBQ sauce and cheddar was just incredible and took me back the good ol' days, when waiting three hours for a table and the Mastodon burger at Kuma's Corner was worth it. Leadbelly is smaller, but has an impressive beer list and for the non-drinkers, makes milkshakes. A second location is in Gladstone Park; make the trip.

A second place that Jen and I both nominated is Logan Square's El Habanero; of special note is their pambazo, a torta-like griddled Mexican sandwich covered in brick-red guajillo salsa, which gives the outer bread a hue that looks foreboding to those who panic at the suggestion of spice, but instead has a mild but robust taste. The service was extremely gracious, and the horchata made eyes at me from across the room. It's a great addition to the neighborhood.

Brandy Gonsoulin:
At 42Grams, Jake Bickelhaupt's attention to detail and use of interesting yet familiar flavors, textures and concepts along with wife and general manager Alexa Welsh's hosting skills (Welsh essentially narrates the journey that Bickelhaupt orchestrates during your two and half hours) leaves you with small bites of memories that you're somehow still reflecting on months later.

I fell in love with mfk my first night over a bowl of spring peas in a cozy underground corner in a small part of the world. Since tasting the original menu, the newer shrimp papaya salad, burgundy snails and now the fideous continues to prove my original wonderlust right.

I have yet to test my initial impression further at Salero, but if my $13 grilled octopus with smoked espuma, potato, fried olives. pickled mustard seeds, puffed quinoa and black onion powder was a glimpse into what the team is capable of, disappointment isn't one of them.

Andrew Huff:
I loved the rich, savory tonkatsu broth at Strings Ramen in Chinatown. The crispy kurobuta pork belly adds delicious textural contrast to the firm but tender noodles. Swish the nori sheet through the broth, savor its salty sweetness, then start slurping.

All the way up on Howard Street, on the Evanston side, is Ward Eight, a little gem of a cocktail bar far from the trendier parts of town.The menu honors the classics while throwing in interesting new takes and a couple originals, and the bartenders are always happy to go off-menu as well. The vibe is relaxed and comfortable, the service is friendly, and the limited food menu hits the spot after a drink or two.

Danielle Snow:
High Five Ramen: unbeatable ramen in a low-key environment that stays open late enough for industry folk to enjoy after work. Also: gigantic (canzilla!) beers!

Lagunitas: free tasting tours. Incredible space. And delicious beer! A welcome addition to Chicago's brewery scene.

Judy Wu:
Parachute is a great "fusion" restaurant because they truly blend cuisines in way that respects old traditions while creating new ones. Their "bing" is a classic example of that. The bing is a Chinese staple that is already so delicious and perfect that I was surprised by how much sour cream and potatoes elevated the dish.

Bohemian House is Eastern European food done right. Every dish was exceptionally well-flavored and balanced, and the cuisine makes it stand out from its River North counterparts.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

News Thu Jan 08 2015

Lula Cafe Closed for Renovations

lula cafe renovations
Photo via Lula Cafe on Instagram

In case you missed it, Logan Square's favorite Lula Cafe announced on its website that it is closing for renovations. The space officially closed Monday.

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Brandy Gonsoulin / Comments (0)

Beer Mon Jan 05 2015

Heyoka Goodbye, Hello Senita

Half Acre Heyoka Senita

Half Acre Beer Co. announced today that it is renaming Heyoka, its canned IPA rolled out in November 2013, to honor requests from the Lakota tribe.

Heyoka is a Lakota Native American word. Recently, some members of the Lakota community reached out with disappointment in our usage of the word and requested that we stop. We didn't and aren't going to spend any time defending or explaining our use of the word. We're simply making the right choice and respecting their wishes.

The beer's new name will be Senita India Pale Ale. New packaging will be rolling out soon.

Continue reading this entry »

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

News Mon Jan 05 2015

You'll Always Have Paris, Again

For their upcoming menu, which debuts Friday, Next will be returning to Paris -- not the menu from 1906 that kicked off service nearly four years ago (have you been competing for tickets for that long?), but a five-to-seven course (new dishes weekly) Bistro menu. Tickets went on sale today. Here's a little cartoon announcement, created with the help of the Alinea Project's Allen and Sarah Hemberger.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Recipe Mon Jan 05 2015

Experimenting with Ice Cream Bases

ice cream-410330_640.jpgI received a professional ice cream machine for Christmas this year, meaning I spent a week turning my apartment into an ice cream parlor. Making ice cream is like reverse-baking -- you create a "base" (or batter) that then freezes into a solid mass you enjoy on a hot summer's day -- or in Chicago, a bitterly cold winter's day. There are countless variations of ice cream bases -- from the basic concoction of eggs, cream and sugar to guar gum, corn syrup and gelatin. Without eggs (a.k.a. Philadelphia-style) or appropriate thickeners, ice creams tend to be firmer, crystallize easier, and have a chewier texture. Without sugar, ice cream is grainy and difficult to scoop. I tried multiple single-quart recipes for ice cream bases (without flavorings or add-ins), and here are my results:

The Classic
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
⅔ cup sugar
6 large egg yolks

This is the archetypal ice cream base, and for good reason. It's light, creamy, and every scoop leaves you wanting more. Every ice cream maker will follow a variation of this, occasionally using dairy, sugar, or egg substitutes to help thicken and sweeten. With the exception of Haagen Daz, most commercial brands use cheaper substitutes because it isn't cost-effective for the quantities of ice cream they produce. For instance, both Oberweis and Ben and Jerry's use guar gum and carraegeenan in place of eggs and mixes water and cream to produce heavy cream. Blue Bell ice cream uses high-fructose corn syrup, cellulose gums, and vegetable gums.

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Judy Wu / Comments (0)

Event Mon Jan 05 2015

A New Year, Covered in Soup

The only way to battle insanely dramatic drops in temperature is with soup. That said, Soup and Bread (pictured) kicks off its new season this Wednesday (5:30-8pm) at the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia). A bevy of volunteer cooks, from such places as Local Foods, Celestial Kitchens, Milk & Honey and Graze Magazine, will be there to ladle up their creations, accompanied by bread donated by Publican Quality Meats and music from DJ Rob Miller of Bloodshot Records. The night's till will be donated to Back of the Yards' Casa Catalina Basic Human Needs Center. The event runs through March 25, with new chefs and a new charity each Wednesday; you can volunteer to cook, or volunteer to eat.

Also, the Takedowns are back -- and this time, it's soup. Lincoln Hall hosts the Jan. 25 event; volunteers cook for prizes (cooking gear from little-know manufacturers like Le Creuset and Wusthof) and glory; participants ($20 admission) sample and vote for their favorites.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (0)

Gardening Thu Nov 06 2014

Autism Finds A New Solution in Local Urban Garden

By Brandy Gonsoulin

Developmental disabilities present obvious social and economic challenges, but solutions to problems are sometimes surprisingly found in the most unexpected places -- like on a small urban farm in the middle of Chicago.
Read this feature »



Sun Feb 1 2015
Bric-A-Brunch Day Party @ Empty Bottle

Mon Feb 2 2015
Between Bites @ Kaiser Tiger

Wed Feb 4 2015
Soup & Bread @ the Hideout

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