Gracie's Cafe holds its grand re-opening this Thursday from 10:30am to noon at 1517 W. Warren Blvd., between Ashland and Ogden avenues. The coffeehouse is run by St. Leonard's Ministries as a training program for formerly incarcerated men and women, providing them an opportunity to develop skills in the food service industry.
"St. Leonard's had been doing a culinary arts program, back of the house training, said Gracie's Manager Mike Ellert. "But we found that a lot of the jobs were in front of house skills -- cashiering, barista skills, sandwich making, pastry trays, greeting people. The back of the house skills were great, but if they had some front of the house skills too, they had a much better chance at getting a job."
Gracie's Cafe launched in September of last year, and 12 of the 18 people trained so far have found jobs at such companies as Eataly, Pete's Market at the CTA.
The cafe is open 7am to 2pm Monday through Friday, 8am to 2pm on Saturday, and serves Intelligentsia coffee as well as pastries, sandwiches, soups and salads. Delivery to area businesses and the Loop is in the works. And given its proximity to Union Park, Gracie's will be a great spot for Pitchfork Music Festival attendees to grab coffee and a snack while they wait for the gates to open.
This past weekend saw Chicago roll out the welcoming committee (i.e., a bunch of beer-guzzling revelers) for Laguintas Brewing Co.'s new Pilsen brewery. Lagunitas' annual Beer Circus, usually held in the Lagunitas home base of Petaluma, California, made its way to Chicago for a weekend-long celebration featuring burlesque acts, carnival rides, live music, and-- of course-- beer.
Those who were able to snag tickets to the sold-out event were among the first to get a glimpse at the new brewing facility, located in an immense warehouse on Washtenaw that was previously used as set space for a few Chicago-based television shows. Now, with the title of Chicago's largest brewery under their belt, Lagunitas is set to open a taproom sometime over the next few months. In the meantime, check out their website and Facebook for news and upcoming events.
When Robert Haynes and Henry Prendergast were envisioning the concept for Logan Square's Analogue, the new "casual" departure from what the two were previously executing at Violet Hour, they wanted a take on a regional cuisine. Enter friend and breakthrough chef Alfredo Nogueira, a New Orleans native who moonlighted briefly at Rootstock and ran several pop-up dinners before landing the audition. Cajun/Creole is the quintessential of regional cuisine-- shaped by the people, culture and local ingredients. Nogueira, who is only industry and self-trained, apparently was very convincing.
Can any marriage be an equal partnership? Bottlefork, a New American restaurant concept from Rockit Ranch Productions opening today in River North, intends to achieve a culinary marriage where food and beverage play an equal role.
Billy Dec, CEO/Founder of Rockit Ranch Productions, created Bottlefork in partnership with Chef Kevin Hickey. Chef Hickey was previously executive chef at Chicago's Four Seasons Hotel for over 18 years, earning Michelin Star and AAA Five Diamond status.
"We're bringing together the elevated food and beverage game beyond being just two complimentary but separate parts of the business, and even beyond advanced pairings to a point where our bar and kitchen talent are connected as a team, free to put elements of the bar in the food and elements of the kitchen in the drinks," said Dec.
If you live anywhere near Rogers Park, then you know how important it is when a new restaurant moves into the neighborhood. For many years your friends and neighbors living on the way far North Side have subsisted with very few restaurant options. Taking a walk through the hood lately, though, it's easy to see that's changing.
The latest addition to Rogers Park's growing culinary selections is the highly anticipated Bullhead Cantina. The whiskey and taco bar, owned by Francisco "Paco" Ruiz, opened its first location in 2012 in Humboldt Park. The Cantina, revered for its atypical taco selection, opened its second location at 1406 W. Morse Avenue on Valentine's Day.
Earlier this month, beer educator Siebel Institute of Technology opened their new teaching hall at Kendall College (900 N. North Branch St.), a move that verified what many of us Chicagoans knew already: this city loves beer.
The craft brew scene has exploded in recent years, and it's not all about just drinking. You don't order "a beer" anymore. Even at a party, you're asked, "what kind?"
Chicago is crafting pretty much every kind of beer under the sun, from the German-style lagers of Metropolitan Brewing to the Belgian-inspired ales of Haymarket, and this city has the brewpubs, restaurants, tap rooms, and bars to serve them. With shops like Brew Camp hosting beer-making classes, it's easier than ever for beer lovers to experiment making their own home brews.
If you have ever found yourself muttering, "Man, I wish Chicago had a cider pub," mutter no more. Come late spring, the guys behind Fountainhead and The Bar on Buena will be opening The Northman, cited as Chicago's first cider pub. The new concept will be located at the current location of Copper House, the former Jury's, and will offer a selection of over 100 ciders in addition to other select beers, wines and spirits. Chef Cleetus Friedman of Fountainhead will man the menu. The bar will be operated under the name "Meantime" until opening.
In the, ahem, meantime, here are some things you may not know about cider:
Cider can also be spelled as cyder.
While it may look like a beer, it's technically closer to wine.
Next time you are drinking one, you can thank the Romans. They brought the fermented beverage back to Rome after discovering the Ancient Britons were fermenting crab apples. The drink then became second to beer in popularity.
Cicchetti, the Venetian small plates concept with executive chef Michael Sheerin (Trencherman), opens today at 671 N. St. Clair St. in Streeterville. Besides small plates, dishes include the Venetian seafood stew specialty plus pasta, risotto, meat and fish. Sarah Jordan (Boka and GT Fish & Oyster) and Phil Rubino (Acadia) are sous-chefs.
The restaurant has a Green Seal certification and is making good use of its sustainable materials with reclaimed wood features. The minimally-decorated bar alludes to a train station, the kind you wouldn't mind waiting in, with the ceiling-high clock facing the door and the tall metal and wood shelves back-lit by bold yellow-orange lights.
Lately Chicago's restaurant scene has been exploding all over the map, with hot new restaurant concepts putting down roots in some off-the-beaten-tracks neighborhoods: Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Avondale, A10 in Hyde Park, Dusek's in Pilsen. However, a recent trend has seen some notable new places spreading across the Western Avenue border. Get ready to make the trip west to some fantastic new food -- if you haven't already.
The Chop Shop: 2033 W. North Ave.
Open for a little over a month, this behemoth restaurant/butcher/events space (separately called the "1st Ward") has booked some noteworthy gigs, including Chicago's beloved Dose Market (which will now be held on a weekly basis as opposed to monthly) and the first annual Donut Fest in January. However, the food and drinks program refuses to be overshadowed: chef Joshua Marrelli of Urban Union has created a hearty gastropub-style menu with prime butchers' cuts as the stars and The Bedford's Dan De Los Monteros orchestrated a cocktail menu based on upgraded classics. Basically, this is your one-stop-shop for food, drinks, and entertainment this winter.
Hunter & Tails: 2700 W. Chicago Ave.
Another new player on the gastropub scene, Hunter & Tails serves up comfort food staples (mussels with sausage, pumpkin risotto) backed by a full bar and 20 rotating draft beer selections -- and don't forget the cocktails. Owner Pablo Ruiz, also behind Bullhead Cantina, takes his newest concept to the Humboldt Park area, where his dining-destination neighbors include Kai Zan and Rootstock. The space itself is simple but cozy, with woodsy tones and even featuring a separate downstairs lounge.
Leghorn: 959 N. Western Ave.
"Socially conscious chicken sandwiches," proclaims Leghorn's bold website -- equal parts menu and social mission statement. The new Ukrainian Village outpost, backed by the Element Collective (Old Town Social, Nellcôte), plans to open in January and will be serving up some refreshingly straightforward fried chicken: your choice of pickle brined or Nashville hot on a buttermilk biscuit or housemade bun. However, the simplistic menu belies a significant cause: 2% of revenues are donated to organizations championing gay rights and Leghorn-branded birth control will be free at the counter.
Nouveau Tavern, the new Cajun/Creole concept to join River North, opened softly recently in preparation for an official Halloween opening. As a Cajun, you can imagine that I damn near crapped myself when I saw the below interior attached to the phrase Cajun/Creole -- these type of places only happen to me when I've had too many cosmos and am wearing four inch heels.
The first thing you'll notice about Nouveau Tavern is the interior. They can thank D+K Architects, (Enclave, Cuvee and District) for transforming a former sushi space into something that borders on a Chicago nightclub and a swampy, dirty south lounge. The atmosphere is sexy yet mellow with a design palette that's a little bit of Mardi Gras, a little bit of voodoo and a lot of see and be seen. Which may be the biggest thing Nouveau has going for them right now.
When Honey Butter owners Christine Cikowski and Joshua Kulp open the doors at 5pm, expect crispy fried, locally sourced chicken, served with the restaurant's signature honey butter, plus "farmer's market-driven veggie side dishes," desserts and a small selection of craft beers from local microbreweries, along with wine and a few cocktails.
Jeni's opens at 11am Saturday, with a full complement of its signature gourmet ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt flavors -- including a tamarind-whole goat's milk yogurt that's a nod to Rick Bayless. There's a preview party Friday night from 7 to 10pm, with free samples for everyone and commemorative posters for the first 50 attendees, and owner Jeni Britton Bauer will be in attendance.
Tremaine Atkinson, owner (along with Mark Lucas) of CH Distillery, was making gin one Saturday afternoon at the copper-topped still near the front entrance. Anyone passing by or entering the distillery/cocktail bar could see this steampunk-y piece of equipment with its levers and windows and tubes. It's hard not to get an itch to poke around around the place.
A spout arced a stream of completed gin into a stainless steel jug as Atkinson took samples to taste and assess its progress. This was an important part of the process and no doubt a contributor to his 12-14 hour days. You have to catch any "funkiness" in gin right away to correct it, otherwise you'll ruin a whole batch. (Luckily, vodka can just be re-distilled if something is off). He let me taste as well, and we'd continue to do so over the course of the hour I was at the distillery. Atkinson pointed out how the different flavors in the gin, juniper, lemon, coriander, presented themselves at different times.
"Those are vertical flavors," he explained, because the mouth picks up on a variety of tastes and sensations. The coriander in particular struck me because it's less a flavor and more a light peppery sensation toward the front of the tongue. Those ingredients steeped in re-distilled vodka, a "soup" that melded over the course of two weeks into a fine, high-quality gin.
Punch House is coming to Pilsen this fall, to be housed in the renaissance of Thalia Hall, a gorgeous and controversial building now owned by Empty Bottle's Bruce Finkelman, who is adding some retail shops, a music venue and two bars (the other being Dusek's, a beer-heavy tavern and restaurant named for the Bohemian immigrant who commissioned Thalia as a community center back in 1890). Look for Punch House to open Sept. 17.
I showed up to Parliament, the River North lounge that opened in mid-August, on a Thursday night wearing a loose fitting black dress, a cardigan, and flats -- the same outfit I had worn to the office. I did have mascara on and I remembered to comb my hair and put on lip gloss, but I was far outdone by nearly every other person. Most of the women sported spike heels and tiny, skin-tight dresses and most of the men wore ties and had carefully gelled hair.
So it was with this high degree of self-consciousness that I perused the place while sipping a gin and tonic. The focal point of the room was a striking light fixture in the center. It looked as if someone had individually strung strands of wire of varying lengths with cubic zirconia and suspended them from the ceiling. Beneath was a circular seating area, the booths textured and cream-colored, the better to morph as the Vegas-y lighting changed from pinks to purples. Booths lined either side of the perimeter, facing each other across the room. There's intentionally not one bad seat in the house. (This is true; the bathrooms are downstairs).
The handcrafted spirits scene in Chicago is getting a serious lift tomorrow with the official opening of West Loop's distillery-cum-cocktail bar, CH Distillery.
Owners Tremain Atkinson and Mark Lucas are joining the cadre of Chicago-area distillers, Koval, FEW, and Letherbee, though CH is specializing in vodka crafted from scratch, with grain grown exclusively in Illinois. Their 8,000 sq-ft. distillery will also produce "entry level" gin and London dry gin, whiskey, and rum.
In keeping with vodka's roots, the 48-seat cocktail bar will offer Eastern-influenced small plates by chef JP Doiron (Avec, Perennial) and consulting chef Jesse Katzman (West Loop Salumi, Avec). Items include whitefish spread, shitakke pâté, and corned duck, each of those served with black rye bread, plus caviar and a small selection of nuts, cheese, and charcuterie.
Besides offering classics like Moscow Mule, consulting mixologist Kyle Davidson (Blackbird, The Publican) has crafted a selection of cocktails like the piquant Rhymes with Orange (serrano chili vodka, lime, CH orange curacao, watermelon) and alleviating Oxycontin (lapsang suchong-infused gin, ginger syrup, honey, lemon). For die-hard vodka fans and curious vodka newbies, there's a Traditional Carafe Service of 7 oz ice-cold vodka with rye bread and pickles.
"Culinary beer?" Sounds like two of my favorite words wedded together, and if you feel the same, you're in for a treat this upcoming winter.
Pilsen's upcoming Moody Tongue Brewing Company, the brainchild of former cook Jared Rouben, specializes in applying culinary techniques to the brewing process: think steeping, macerating, infusing, baking, extracting. This hybrid method-- honed through Rouben's collaborations and experiments with over 50 different chefs-- promises traditional-style beers with amplified, unexpected flavors.
Seasonality and top-of-the-line (most often local) ingredients are the guiding forces behind Moody Tongue's unique approach. For example, a recent collaboration with Chicago chef Rick Bayless produced the Marisol, a Belgian golden ale accentuated with green tea, grapefruit and lime peel. Rouben also makes good use of his local resources, citing the Green City Market as an inspiration and sourcing ground for fresh, unusual ingredients such as bubblegum plums and green strawberries.
Rouben earned his brewing chops as the previous pub brewmaster at Goose Island and creator of two of its experimental brewing programs, Chef Collaboration Series and Farmers' Market Series. He opens Moody Tongue's doors in winter 2013, located at 2136 S. Peoria Street.
6 months ago we gave you a preview of a charming brewery opening up in the Lakeview neighborhood and we are glad to report the day has finally come. DryHop Brewers will open its doors on Thursday, June 13 with all 6 taps, ready-to-fill growlers and a menu [PDF] that we look forward to mining in the coming weeks.
If you've had any of the collaborations that Dry Hop has been producing with the likes of Solemn Oath, Atlas and Begyle and aren't able to wait until the official opening, good news! Dry Hop is opening its doors for a preview this Saturday from 1-3 pm. The public is welcome to swing by and see the brewery, buy a growler and fill it with DryHop's first two beers: Shark vs. Hipster, a wheat IPA, and Batch 001, a Chicago Cream Ale. Growlers are $10 each (for the glass vessel and fill).
I had the pleasure of tasting DryHop's most recent collab with Solemn Oath called Heavy Metal Parking Lot at the West Loop block party and I'll just say that these guys have a playful albeit wild way of working with hops, malt and yeast. If you've grown bored of classic Belgian and German styles, this brewery is soon to be on your list of favorites.
Lillie's Q Bucktown, the BBQ restaurant that became prey to a fire in March, is scheduled to reopen mid-June. When they do reopen, they may be reopening as champions -- McKenna and his team will compete in the whole pork shoulder category at the Memphis In May World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest, the "Super Bowl" of BBQ competitions, this weekend. Until then, Lillie's Q fans can get a portion of their craving's satisfied at the Lillie's Q outpost inside the West Loop's Chicago French Market (131 North Clinton Street). Follower them on Twitter for updates.
PS. BBQ trivia - Lillie's Q is named after Chef Charlie McKenna's grandmother, Lillie.
Wicker Park's Hash has all of the ingredients for brunch success: an inventive menu centered around a breakfast favorite, comfy prices, and a lot of local flavor.
Their namesake offerings, a selection of six different hash brown-centric plates, come in two different sizes and draw inspiration from the neighborhood's eclectic population: the "Ukie" features pork sausage and kraut, while the "Humboldt" includes fried plantain and a choice of chorizo or meatless "soyrizo." This is the sort of thoughtfulness that I find inspiring and exciting in menu planning: while sometimes I eat out to escape my surroundings (e.g. sushi in the Midwest; I dig it frequently), I have a special place in my heart for restaurants that successfully embrace their location and its roots--especially in a city as densely diverse as Chicago.
The restaurant space itself is open and homey, full of retro patterns and natural light that encourage lingering over your cup of coffee (Dark Matter, one of my local favorites). The easily-customizable menu sprawls across the back wall in chalk script, and counter service is--in my experience--quick and friendly. Delivery is also available!
Chicagoans love mixing booze and vintage arcade games, as evidenced by recent news that both Emporium in Wicker Park and Headquarters in Lakeview are planning major expansions. Joining them soon will be Replay, which will replace Buck's Saloon in Boystown.
Emporium, which was the first arcade bar in Chicago, picking up the concept from New York pioneer Barcade, is taking over the storefront just south of the bar at 1370 N. Milwaukee Ave. Co-owner Danny Marks told DNAinfo the expansion would hopefully be complete by June.
Headquarters Beercade, which opened as a side bar to the much larger Uncle Fatty's Rum Resort at 2833 N. Sheffield, has been a huge hit as well -- so much so that it's overshadowed its older sibling. Uncle Fatty's will close May 4, making room for a 7,000 square-foot addition to Headquarters that will house the Midwest's largest pinball arcade, including both vintage and new machines from suburban Stern Pinball.
The newest game spot, Replay, will take over Buck's, 3439 N. Halsted St., in mid-May, with more than 20 arcade games from the '80s and '90s and 25 craft beers on tap, plus a cocktail menu designed by Elixir's head mixologist, Danny Quinn. Buck's was one of the first gay bars on Northalsted; there are several farewell parties planned for this weekend.
"This is better than Big Star!" I didn't expect to hear this upon my first visit to Takito, a self-described"modern taco" joint that recently opened its doors for business on Division St. Chicago, and especially the Wicker Park neighborhood, has recently become so saturated with taco options lately that it was difficult not to approach Takito with a healthy amount of skepticism. Better than Big Star? Not likely. However, a few bites into Takito's own pork belly offering, one of my dining partners vocalized what we'd all been thinking: this place is really, really good.
Outfitted with plenty of space for large and small parties alike and featuring a gorgeous open kitchen, Takito fits in comfortably with the vibrant atmosphere of Division St (and will hopefully help to make the area more of a dining destination instead of just one long bar strip).
Of course, Executive Chef David Dworshak (previously at Carnivale) is a bit of a veteran of the Latin American dining scene. Here, he focuses his energy on crafting the details that set Takito apart from other high-end taco restaurants: ingredients sourced from Midwestern purveyors such as Three Sisters Garden and Maple Creeks Farm, unexpected flavor combinations such as Brunkow cheese, roasted peanuts and date chutney; and upscale plates such as the delicious Suzuki Bass Ceviche, which resembled a take on Mexican sashimi.
Besides the inspired, fresh-tasting tacos, a huge standout was the salsa flight: served with light, nutty-tasting masa crackers, salsas arrived in shades of vibrant colors and outstanding flavors. My personal favorite was the Chile de Árbol Cucumber, which delivered a tangy, bright flavor heavy on the cucumber. At $5 per flight, this is definitely one of must-haves of the menu.
My one regret? Not trying any of the drinks, crafted by beverage director Adam Weber. And, ok, I spent a buck or two more than I usually feel comfortable doling out on tacos. However, Takito certainly proved its staying power during my visit: perhaps not as trendy as Big Star or as quirky as Antique Tacos, Takito gracefully straddles the line between upscale and inviting. Takito Kitchen is located at 2013 W Division St Chicago, IL 60622. Hours are 5:00 pm - 2:00 am weekly; closed on Mondays. All photos taken from the Takito Kitchen website.
When I was around 10, I went through a (long) phase where I refused to eat anything normal 10-year-olds ate. Burgers? No. Birthday cake? Hell no. Pizza? Not unless it has fancy toppings on it, so basically, no. When I was first introduced to barbeque chicken pizza, it felt like it arrived accompanied by choirs of singing angels, not to mention the relieved sighs of my parents -- no marinara sauce, no spicy meat products, plenty of cheese and sticky sweet chicken. But childhood memory can be a bitch -- for a long time, no real BBQ chicken pie has lived up to mistily shrouded recollections of picky 10-year-old eater bliss.
Until I tried the Knife and Forker at the new Homeslice Wheel House, Lincoln Park's grown-up refuge from the college-student inundated pizza and beer scene. And McGee's and those snobs at the Local Option had best watch their backs. Homeslice's version is like the Platonic form of barbeque chicken pizza: shredded chicken bolstered with spicy pepperoni, dark sweet barbeque sauce and finely sliced red onion for just a touch of acidity, draped with perfectly blistered cheddar, mozarella and provolone. This, with 12 beers on tap and a cocktail menu! My childhood heart be still, my grown-up liver rejoice.
That may look like any other Portillo's you've been to, but there's a difference: this one is located all the way out in Scottsdale, AZ.
The newest location in the hot dog and Italian beef chain opened Feb. 26 to serve the large Chicago ex-pat community in the Phoenix area; my grandmother, who moved to Scottsdale 20 years ago, and her friends couldn't stop talking about it on a recent visit. On opening day, there was a line down the block, and a week later the shop is still receiving throngs of folks eager for an authentic beef with sweet peppers. The photo above was sent to me by my mother, who's visiting out there, and who reported that around a hundred people were in line behind her at lunchtime.
Wondering which Portillo's are farther away? There are two locations east of Los Angeles, in Buena Park and Moreno Valley. A second Arizona store will open in Tempe this summer.
Several years ago when I first moved to Logan Square, I regularly visited a whopping 3 bars. I'm not going to count the number of bars open now, but one more vies for your attention starting tonight: Off Site Bar, adjacent to Longman & Eagle.
Confused about it's location? So was I. The press kit said it was behind and to the east of L&E, and all I could think of was the garage. Well, turns out that's where it is - right next to the gated patio area behind the restaurant is a new bar that will be available as a small event space and serve as an overflow area for the long dinner waits. The decor continues the warm gray and wood themes of the front bar while adding stark white concrete blocks, and since it is in a garage, it features a vintage racing motorcycle (is it still running? I forgot to ask!) For those curious how the garage looks so big but the bar is so small, it also houses a new prep kitchen for the staff.
What I'm most excited about, though, starts up in a couple of weeks: OSB is set to host a Saturday Sausage Shop (alliteration!), with the menu announced the previous Thursday and sous chef Matthew Sliwinski's creations becoming available at 11am on Saturday, until the meat runs out. Look for the first one on March 16th!
These days, the launch of a new restaurant is usually preceded by months of buzz and social media-building, followed by even further announcements of "opening soon." Not in the case of Wicker Park's newest opening, The Monarch, which up until a few weeks ago was the very (and I mean very) German bar, Uberstein. In fact, the only possible buzz were the rumors around Andrew Brochu's (formerly of Graham Elliot) new direction into the supposed "revamping" of the place. Before we even had time to ask what Brochu was doing in the bar scene (the German bar scene to be precise), in the likes of a made-for-television restaurant flipping, new owner and former GM Colin Burke closed Uberstein on New Year's Day and reopened on Jan. 11 as The Monarch -- if you're going to have a name like that, what better way to back it up.
The bar is named for White Stockings (which became the Cubs) player turned evangelist and temperance activist William Ashley "Billy" Sunday. Look for cocktails ranging from classic to contemporary -- some familiar to those who do at Yusho -- and a food menu that's mostly small plates, heavy on pickles and preserves.
Billy Sunday is located at 3143 W. Logan Blvd., next to Dunlay's on the Square. Hours are 5pm to 2am every day.
The Haute and the Dog, an upscale hot dog, pulled pork, chili, and hand-cut fry kind of place which replaces Bagel on Damen (1252 N. Damen), will be opening tomorrow. Let's hope no cars crash into it. Again.
The Goddess and Grocer announced Monday that it will open its fourth location at 901 N. Larrabee St. in River North in early February.
The 1,600-square-foot space will include seating 36 at communal and bar tables, and will offer all the usual Goddess and Grocer specialties, including both made-to-order and premade sandwiches, salads and soups; prepared foods like appetizers, entrees and side dishes; and housemade cookies, cakes and desserts. The shop will also offer a selection of mostly locally made specialty grocery items, such as jams, pastas, sauces, chips and salsas, and a collection of wine and beer.
Dish reports that former L2O chef Francis Brennan and Jeff Mahin, chef-owner of Santa Monica's Stella Rossa Pizza Bar and M Street Kitchen, are opening two restaurants in the former Tilli's space at 1952 N. Halsted St. One will be a clone of Stella Rossa (under a new name), while the other will be a "California restaurant," by which I presume means more Wolfgang Puck than California Pizza Kitchen. Both projects are backed by Lettuce Entertain You.
This is not the first teaming of Brennan and Mahin. The pair are the driving force behind Do-Rite Donuts, which opened last February, kicking the gourmet doughnut competition into high gear. You can also watch Mahin compete on ABC's new cooking competition show "The Taste," which debuts Tuesday, Jan. 22.
Tea lovers, beware! DAVIDsTEA opened its first Chicago store in Bucktown (1645 N. Damen Ave.) on Tuesday.
The Canadian loose-leaf tea company sells and brews over 150 kinds of tea, hot and cold, as well as tea-brewing accessories. One reviewer on Yelp described it the New York location being like the Apple store for teas. In other words, this is the high quality tea you might normally find in a crunchy cooperative, but there's more variety, slick packaging, and the shops have a cool, modern design aesthetic.
When I visited the store, the friendly employees offered me a sample of their tea of the day, Toasted Marshmallow, a black tea blend with real toasted marshmallows. The knowledgable staff will help you pick the perfect tea for you by pulling an assortment for you to smell or sample. The woman helping me selected eight teas I might like, based on the fact that I like ginger. Two of those included Organic Splash! (a cleansing mix of green tea, ginger, sea lettuce, cardamom, burdock root, peppermint and red clover) and Buddha's Blend (a fragrant medley of white and green tea, jasmine pearls and white hibiscus blossoms).
DAVIDsTEA is a fun experience - and based on the rave reviews this chain has garnered at other locations, I think they'll do well. Look for two more locations opening in the next few weeks at 924 W. Armitage Ave. in Lincoln Park and 3530 N. Southport Ave. in Lakeview.
The formerly unmarked space on 2745 W. Armitage Ave. was being used as a kitchen to make decadent truffles and caramels, sold online and at Chicago's farmers markets for the past two years. The business' founder, Katherine Duncan, decided it was time to open a storefront after receiving calls from customers asking her how late she was open. One woman drove all the way from the suburbs wanting to buy truffles, only to discover there wasn't a shop. "Chocolate is an impulse buy; you don't think to buy it in advance," said Duncan, who grew up learning how to make confections with an "overachieving mom who made everything from scratch."
In the craze for a quarter pound of beef slapped between two buns (pretzel rolls if you're savy) that Kuma's Corner started in 2006 (yes, we can debate who really started the burger craze if you'd like but let's just keep this simple), Meatheads, the popular suburban burger chain, is bringing its meat to Roscoe Village this Monday, Sept. 24 in the once sad looking shopping center (3304 N. Western Ave.) that used to house Blockbuster but has recently been getting some love with the move in of Mariano's and a well needed face-lift. For its grand opening, Meatheads is giving away free burgers for a year to the first 50 customers who purchase lunch. (Because that's what meatheads do, they spread the love). Doors open at 11am on Monday. Mmmm, meat.
We all know that a nice bowl of pho soup is one of the best cures for sick days and hangovers. Apparently, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Saigon Sisters agree, as the Vietnamese chain prepares to move into Northwestern Memorial Hospital at 251 E. Huron St this fall just in time for those winter blues. Forgot fructose-filled fruit salad and saltless mashed potatoes, Saigon Sisters will offer their usual Banh Mi's, Pho, Spring Rolls, Banh Bao and Rice Bowls in addition to breakfast which will include Vietnamese coffee and Op La Banh Mi -- the Vietnamese take on a breakfast egg sandwich with pork & Chinese sausage.
This culinary upgrade seems to be a growing trend for the university, with the piggyback opening of Frontera Freso in late October at the Evanston campus' Norris student center. This location will mark the chain's first step into higher education.
Healthcare and education -- apt timing I would say for the upcoming campaign.
Following quickly after the July announcement that Logan Square's hidden spot turned Michelin-star Bonsoirée, owned by Chef Shin Thompson's, was going to be reopening under Chef Beverly Kim (Aria and Top Chef) and her husband, John Clark (C-House), Bonsoirée is formally announcing that it is opening its doors this Friday under the same name.
Unusual to most restaurant reopens, this one is rumored peaceful, with Thompson leaving as chef but still retaining ownership to seek out a new, modern Asian-American project with chef Jason Paskewitz and Ryan O'Donnell (Gemini Bistro, Rustic House) in the West Loop while Kim and Clark embarked on their dream of owning a restaurant.
The seasonal Korean influenced 12-course menu will focus on small plates and avant-garde techniques and features items such as ember roasted carrots "thai style", cultured coconut, chocolate mint (pictured), and "bone soup" omasum tripe, marrow, caramelized brisket, yellow chive.
The restaurant will have a new look as well from Chicago designer and artist Young Sun Han with a concept that is warm yet tranquil, accented by Shou-Sugi Ban (traditional Japanese Burnt Cedar). And for the nights where the weather permits, forget beer garden, Bonsoiree has a "Fire Zen Garden" - fireside included, of course. The once BYOB will be no longer with the arrival of sommelier, Rachel Lowe (The French Laundry, Sixteen), bringing a beverage program focusing on small batch produced wines and craft beers and cocktails. (However, current byob fans, don't fret, for a $35 corkage fee you can still bring your favorite bottle). Unique to the Logan Square scene, and calling upon the speakeasy craze that has happened upon us, however, Bonsoirée will be pre-sold reservations only. No reservation, no service. (You can, however, call the day of, if Bonsoirée has seats they will accommodate). Bonsoirée claims on its FAQ's page that:
"As a very small restaurant that aspires to the highest levels of service and culinary presentation, it is essential that we know how many guests to expect each night. Having this knowledge allows us to push our limits, both in terms of sourcing unique, premium products and crafting our raw materials into inspired food. We also believe that the ticket system is consistent with our model of hospitality. By purchasing a ticket, you have committed to spend an evening with us. In return, we commit to do our very best to make it unforgettable."
I love the business model as it allows them to plan their menu (and therefore, costs, which is the thorn in every executive chefs side) but this requirement means that the food will have to speak loud and clear. Any shortcomings will send the happy yelpers yelping; curious how this exclusivity pans out. A meal at Bonsoirée will run you $130 (tax and service included) on Sunday-Thursday and $160 Friday-Saturday. Wine and beverage pairings are available for purchase at the restaurant for $70 plus tax and 20% service charge. There are still tickets available for the weekend opening so get them while you can.
"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." (John Meynard Keynes)
RM, the new Champagne Salon concept from sommelier Jason Wagner (former wine director alongside Joël Robuchon), backed by the guys behind Element Collection (Nellcote, Old Town Social) is making its debut this Sunday in the West-Loop scene at 116 N. Green St. (Previously slated to open yesterday, the website, Facebook and Twitter pages confirm the opening has been delayed until tomorrow). Tucked behind Nellcote with access via a cobblestone entrance that opens into a courtyard patio decorated by an array of candles and tea lights, you might, for a minute, feel transported to a place that you wish you were jumping on a plane to tomorrow. Like the south of France, or Sicily.
Once you get past the courtyard, it's obvious that RM is a by-product of the Element Collection team with its use of dark tones, black wrought iron, crystal decor and overall European feel. I can't quite place it but whether I'm at Old Town Social, Nellcote or now RM, I feel exactly what the partners claim they are going for: sophistication without the pretense. They've succeeded in their concepts in a city that's sometimes hard to convince.
When considering that most of Chicago's understanding of a champagne bar is shaped by the popular Pops for Champagne, however, you might wonder, what will make RM different from Pops?
TRENCHERMAN: a person who enjoys food; a hearty eater and drinker
It was on the weekend of Chicago's 2012 heat wave and subsequent late night power outage (conveniently on a Friday) -- having just been booted from Revolution Brewery and The Whistler in Logan Square as a result, and finding that almost every other bar in Wicker Park was also out of power -- that I found myself walking into Trenchermen, the newest kid to the Wicker Park growing culinary scene.
Trenchermen (2039 W. North Ave), now taking up residence in the former Spring space, is the project of Michael and Patrick Sheerin, two brothers with a long resume of culinary achievements (Blackbird, Everest, and Signature Room to name a few) as well as hospitality heavyweights Kevin Heisner and Matt Eisler (Bar DeVille, Nightwood Restaurant, Bangers & Lace, and The Anthem). The design concept is part old industrial meets chemistry lab meets a Vermont cabin if I may - bartenders, dressed in the style of Paul Bunyan if Paul Bunyan were an old village carpenter mix drinks in beakers, while moss grows on the wall. The rectangle bar seems like a great new place to do Wicker Park people watching - you know, to compare if the Wicker Park hipsters rival the Logan Square ones and is a welcomed arrival to the "interesting collection" of bars in the Milwaukee, North and Damen six corners. The seasonally driven menu, purposefully limited, boosts items such as Scotched Quail Eggs, Beet Burrata and Smoked Sturgeon. It's been labeled as progressive American Contemporary . . . does that translate to affordable fine dining?
The kitchen was closed so we went in for drinks, I, The Bridge and Tunnel, an interesting mix of carbonated lemon-peel vodka, white zin and celery bitters, my friend the Sunner Kolsch, a German summer ale. My drink was surprisingly good, albeit risky. Judging what beverage director Tona Palomino is doing with things such as The Green Hornet (a spin on the classic gin and tonic), the Baby Mama (which includes damiana, a Mexican liquor, and yuzu, an Asian citrus fruit) and the Desperate Vesper, which includes--wait for it--Marlot, there might just be a Violet Hour throw down coming up in the future. (Lesson: Marlot always wins). Trenchermen just officially opened earlier this week. We'll have to see if the successful chemistry experiment applies to the food as well.
Bow Truss Coffee Roasters, the new roaster and espresso shop from coffeeshop and tech entrepreneur Phil Tadros, celebrates its grand opening tonight from 7pm to 9pm at 2934 N. Broadway. They'll be serving up V60 pour overs, iced coffee and Strange Pelican brews, and selling pounds of their six small-batch roasted coffee beans.
Leghorn, a fried chicken joint that is the brainchild of Old Town Social and Nellcote, is scheduled to open next Friday this fall. The best part? They're donating two percent of sales to gay rights groups, they're selling birth control at the counter, and they're not interested in "whatever tickles your pickle" religion-wise. Wow, the world's problems are finally solved. Leghorn's address (which will likely be somewhere near Logan Square, Bucktown or West Town) has not yet been announced; stay tuned.
Emporium, Chicago's first arcade bar, held a surprise soft opening this past Saturday and officially opens for business tonight at 5pm at 1366 N. Milwaukee Ave. The bar boasts more than three dozen arcade games and two dozen beers. I for one look forward to practicing my technique on Galaga while enjoying a cold Oberon.
Crosby's Kitchen, the latest venture from the owners of Smoke Daddy, Dunlay's, Frasca and more, will take over the former Leo's Coney Island at Southport and Cornelia. (Crosby's posted a 1892 neighborhood map on Facebook, which -- if you look closely -- shows that some Lakeview streets have been renamed since then.)
Tomorrow, the Sun Xien Soy Products factory is opening its doors to the public to tour its new tofu processing plant. The factory, owned by the Cheng family (who also run Sun Wah BBQ in Uptown), will be the second offering Chicago has for fresh tofu, along with Phoenix Bean. Email or call 847-432-8255 to reserve your space on the tour. The factory is located at 613 W. 47th St.; doors open at 10am and admission is $3. UPDATE: We've just learned that the tour is full, but you can still get on the waitlist.
Joy Yee To Go, the new Lakeview outpost of the popular Chinese and bubble tea chain, opened on Tuesday at 1465 W. Irving Park Rd. The new 20-seat restaurant will serve the same pan-Asian food, fruit smoothies and bubble tea as the other locations, although store manager Michael Yang said some of the less popular dishes on the voluminous menu may not always be available due to the restaurant's small size.
Asked why Joy Yee opted to open in Lakeview, Yang said, "A lot of people have been asking for it." With restaurants in Evanston, Chinatown, UIC University Village and Naperville, the North Side was a gap in Joy Yee's network.
Joy Yee To Go is open daily from 11:30am to 10pm, and offers carry-out and delivery. The restaurant is offering a 15 percent grand opening discount right now.
Joy Yee To Go
1465 W. Irving Park Rd.
Popular Chinese and bubble tea chain Joy Yee is opening a new "Joy Yee To Go" at 1465 W. Irving Park Rd., right next to the just-opened City Farms Market & Grill. The manager of the new location has so far declined to comment about the new shop, saying he was waiting for permission from the head of the Joy Yee chain, but we'll fill you in as soon as we have more info.
Scott Harris knows a trend when he sees one. The mastermind behind the Francesca's empire will be opening three outposts of Glazed and Infused, a gourmet doughnut chain, next to CTA stations in the next couple months. I got an opportunity to sample some of the wares, and commuters are in for a treat.
Glazed and Infused will launch with around 20 varieties of yeast and cake doughnuts, with a focus on higher end ingredients like single-origin chocolate and hazelnut praline. The mix offers your classics like chocolate glazed, apple fritter and old fashioned, but also includes confections such as a banana-salted caramel and crème brulée-filled bismark. Prices will be between $2.75 and $5.
"Would you like one of our housemade jello shots?"
Not exactly what I expected from a newly opened bistro tucked back in the industrial corridor near the Hideout. Ada Street is the latest restaurant from the guys behind DMK and Fishbar and judging on table availability during their first week, it will be as hot as its sister spots.
For those of us who only know Andersonville because of HopLeaf and Swedish pastries (me), In Fine Spirits Lounge at 5420 N. Clark is making over the existing wine bar and lounge into a casual-fine dining restaurant and upstairs cocktail den. IFS will close on Sunday, March 18 and reopen in April as Premise with Graham Elliot trained Brian Runge as the executive chef and a menu that's described as "classic with a modern approach" aka Brian likes Sweetbreads so expect to see something along the lines of sweetbread empanadas. (Sounds deelish). Bourbon and craft cocktails will be joining their wine program and the word is that the designer behind The Girl and The Goat and Balena will be adding her touch to the new interior.
Ps. Don't worry BYOBer's, the existing wine shop will stay open so you can still grab your bottle for the nearby Noodle Zone.
I expected Nellcôte's VIP soiree that I attended this past Tuesday to be a sexy event, and when I walked past the wall of lavender through the wrought iron gate archway and got my first glimpse of the interior, I was glad I had switched my riding boots for heels. Sexy it was. The team behind Old Town Social has transformed the former site of Marche into an elegance meets rock and roll concept, a far cry from its predecessor, and the result is a Chicago version of sexy that calls upon LA's Bar Mamout. The signature aesthetic of at least 10 chandeliers lining the ceiling immediately grabs your attention, while the orange halo-backlit bar looks exactly like the place you would hope to be picked up by Ryan Gosling dressed in a Ralph Lauren suit. No doubt it's a seen and be seen place. The restaurant is divided by a downstairs and a slight upstairs that is more casual. Several hidden two-tops set up theatre-style in the balcony corners add a whimsical effect to the traditional restaurant layout.
I didn't know what to expect from the food side but I figured any restaurant on Randolph and a project of Jared Van Camp was going to be aiming high. I first tried a bite-sized taste of pickled salmon with a side of raisins and pine nuts presented on top of a coulis. The combination of pickled salmon next to crunchy pine nut was... different, and I'd like to offer it another opportunity to try it in its entirety. I next tried a warm white asparagus soup shooter with black truffles that reinforced my love for all things green and fungi. It had just the right amount of punch and flavor. There was some sort of foie gras paté that I unfortunately never got my hands on but here's where I got confused, and as Serious Eats mentions that "it is easy to get confused about the concept, which aims to mix fine dining with an irreverent attitude."
Thin crust Neapolitan-style pizza. Huh?
Circulating among the scene of flashy elegance and style was also... pizza. Not even the more sophisticated cousin, flatbread, but straight up 10 inch pizzas. Apparently Jared Van Camp likes his milled flour, and maybe just all things European, so I'm guessing that's where the inspiration for pizza comes from -- but pizza and foie gras? I guess it wouldn't be the first time I had been confused. It's too early to say what Nellcôte will do for Randolph's reputation as a food authority but it's no doubt it will be a popular joint this spring. With a menu under $30 and an interior that makes you feel like you're actually in the mix, I'd recommend checking it out. It bills itself as French American and the soundtrack of Black Keys and everything non-103.5 makes you forgive them for putting pizza next to sweetbreads. But if the fusion of southern Italy and south France and the revival of bohemian chic is your thing, this could be your next dream.
Nellcôte (833 W. Randolph St.) is open for business as of today and reservations can be made at Opentable or 312-432-0500.
Lettuce Entertain You is getting into the donut game -- right now. The restaurant group is the financial backer for Do-Rite Donuts & Coffee, which begins serving serving small batch gourmet donuts and coffee at 50 W. Randolph St. -- a small storefront carved out of Petterino's -- at 6:30am on Thursday.
Do-Rite is co-owned by chefs Francis Brennan and Jeff Mahin. Both chefs have a history with Lettuce Entertain You: Brennan created the bread program at L2O and took over as executive chef after Laurent Gras left the Michelin-starred restaurant before making way for Matthew Kirkley in November, and Mahin is chef-partner at Stella Rossa Pizza Bar, one of LEYE's restaurants in Santa Monica, CA.
Do-Rite will be open Monday through Friday starting at 6:30am, and will be frying donuts fresh every hour until 11am -- though Mahin said some varieties may run out early. "We're cooking donuts every hour, 24 to 36 at a time." The shop will stay open after 11am until the last batch runs out. You'll be able to keep an eye on supply and daily selection by following @DoRiteDonuts on Twitter.
For those of you disheartened by Boka Restaurant Group's closing of Landmark Grill last summer, fret no more. Its replacement Balena--Italian slang for "whale"-- a collaboration between Boka and the folks at The Bristol, is on its way in the same location (1633 N. Halsted) sometime this week, or next week...or whenever the paint dries.
The menu concept is based around rustic Italian-inspired food, like kale panzanella and margherita pizza, and fans of mixologists Debbi Peek and Benjamin Schiller can get a taste of their interpretation of the Italian cocktail with an inspired drink and wine menu. But if this place takes off like all the other Boka restaurants have, be one of the first to get in the door.
Paul Kahan's much rumored Publican Quality Meats is opening on Feb. 6, right on schedule. They'll begin with in-house baked bread and other locally sourced items. The butcher will be fully functioning, selling meats, charcuterie and sandwiches, the following week. [via]
Fans of dirty punk rock may have realized that Pancho's isn't quite the same place anymore -- the appearance of fancy craft brews being your first clue. Turns out Brian Peterson of MP Shows went in on the venue with Tamiz Haiderali, formerly of Treat Restaurant. The venue is being renamed Township, and it's not-so-silently opening this weekend for a pop up brunch.
Old favorites will be served, as well as some new dishes; Dark Matter coffee will be available, and thanks to the attached bar you can spike it with the booze of your choice. The only catch? You need to make reservations, and for now the joint is cash only. If you've missed the Daal, Poori and Eggs as much as I have, check it out this Saturday or Sunday, 9am-2pm.
Township, 2200 N. California
Call 773-384-1865 or email email@example.com for reservations.
From its bare-bones website, I was getting a definite basement bar vibe from the new Highball Lounge, located above Orange on the western edge of River North -- utilitarian bar, basic U-shaped booths, nothing much else. As with the proverbial book and cover, however, you can't necessarily judge a bar by its website. While the lounge has been technically open since November, I stopped by for a reception last week and was pleasantly surprised by the intimate but playful space.
The long, lean lounge has a speakeasy feel to it (enhanced in part by the lack of street-level signage -- the ambiguity is intentional for the time being, according to manager Anthony Williams, but a banner and lit sign are on their way), all low lights and 60's-inspired decor, with a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over Clark Street lending an openness to the space. The menu is true to the bar's name, primarily focused on the highball, with such spirit-and-mixer favorites as the Moscow Mule, Pimm's Cup, and the Mai Tai, the last being delightfully sweet and sour, a burnished golden color (none of that pink, "MTV Spring Break" nonsense, thank you) and garnished with a garden's worth of bright mint.
Chef Matthias Merges, after 14 years as chef de cuisine at Charlie Trotter's, will finally have a restaurant of his own when Yusho opens this Saturday, Dec. 3, at 2853 N. Kedzie Ave.
The restaurant brings Japanese-inspired small plates to the Logan Square/Avondale area, with yakitori (or "grilled birds" on the menu), yasai (or grilled vegetables) and kushiyaki (grilled seafood and meat) battling for attention. The late-night menu, served from 10pm on, is a smaller collection focused on hangover-fighting dishes like twice-fried chicken, ramen with crispy pig tail and a duck egg, steamed beef buns and a daily soft-serve ice cream. In addition to a selection of wine and sake, a handful of cocktails are available to pair with your meal.
Yusho is open from 5pm to 2am; the kitchen closes at 1am. Call 773-904-8558 for reservations.
Did you hear the news? Announced a few days ago in their client newsletter, the beloved Roscoe Village location of The Bleeding Heart Bakery will be moving. You only have a few weeks left to get your fix of the Belmont and Damen Ave store (at 1955 W Belmont), however don't fret too much. They're not moving far. With a new location set to open sometime "this year" at 1351 W. Belmont (what used to be the Paper Boy store location), this new space will be dubbed "The Original Bleeding Heart Bakery". The naming is meant to illustrate the goal of the new space to function as a sort of test kitchen, concocting new and exciting products for the other locations. Clientele will be able to watch pastry construction unfold before their eyes with a completely glassed in kitchen. Can't wait? Well sign up for the newsletter already so you can be the first to hear the news on the official opening (see site for details). That's not enough? Well, hopefully one of their other locations will be sufficient to tide you over while you wait. Find them in West Town (1916 W Chicago Ave Chicago, IL 60622), Oak Park (1010 North Blvd Oak Park, IL 60301), and Elmhurst (116 S York St Elmhurst, IL 60126).
One of the fall's most highly anticipated openings, Publican Quality Meats, quietly posted a help wanted ad on craigslist on Nov. 5 looking for line cooks, prep cooks and butchers.
Publican Quality Meats, Paul Kahan and One-Off Hospitality Group's latest endeavor, will be a full-service butcher shop and deli counter, offering house-carved meats, charcuterie and other staples. You'll be able to order sandwiches, salads and other light fare to go or to eat in. PQM will also bake breads for all of One-Off's restaurants, and produce charcuterie for Publican across the street.
A publicist for One Off declined to share any updates regarding the shop's opening date, which has been reported as anywhere from "late November" to January.
Chicago's food truck fleet grows by two this week, just as news broke that one truck was closing up shop.
Wow Bao, Lettuce Entertain You's popular Asian bun concept, launches its food truck (or van) today at 11:30am at 600 W. Chicago Ave., aka Groupon headquarters. The truck will sell two-bao boxes for $5 -- which seems a little steep since they're $1.49 each in the restaurant. Delivery charge, I suppose. The truck will also sell housemade ginger ale for $3 and bottled water for $1. In a nice twist, it'll take cash or credit. Follow @baomouth for further details.
On Thursday, Oct. 27, the new DucknRoll truck makes its debut with a party from 6 to 8pm in front of Calumet Photo, 1111 N. Cherry St. on Goose Island. The truck starts official lunch service on Monday the 31st, offering up a range of Vietnamese-inspired bánh mí, adzuki bean-cinnamon donuts and mango-lychee salsa. Keep up with it at @ducknrolltruck.
I was all set to tell you to keep an eye out for the latest food truck to hit the streets, the Lillie's Q Meat Mobile, at lunch today, but I received an email this morning letting me know its launch has been delayed until tomorrow due to mechanical difficulties. Which just means now you have more time to prepare.
The Meat Mobile will arrive at Ampco System Parking lot located at 28 N. Franklin St. around 11am. The wheeled outpost of the popular Wicker Park barbecue restaurant will serve Chef Charlie McKenna's pulled pork and pulled chicken sandwiches on brioche. The sandwiches are $10 (cash only) and come with either coleslaw or baked beans and a choice of one of Lillie's Q's five housemade sauces (Smoky, Hot Smoky, Carolina, Carolina Gold, Ivory) on the side.
I'm not the world's best baker, but sometimes I get lucky, like I did several years ago while looking for a great cupcake recipe for a friend's birthday. I stumbled upon New York's famous Magnolia Bakerycupcake recipe, and it's been my go-to ever since.
While the above recipe is tastes nearly exactly like the real-deal, if you don't have the time or inclination to bake or fly to New York, you can pick up a freshly-baked cupcake for yourself in Chicago's Block 37, starting tomorrow at 10am.
But let me tell you a little secret: the bakery is more than just cupcakes and sprinkles. Oh sure, those are fantastic (from the classic red velvet to the seasonal pumpkin with maple frosting and pecans), but I *highly* recommend the banana pudding -- and this is coming from a person who is by no means a banana-lover. Other highlights include the double fudge brownies, key lime cheesecake, molasses cookies, and the lemon bars. Heck, everything I sampled was fantastic. And of course Magnolia has great coffee options to go with your desserts. The interior is made to look like a bakery from the 50's - white wood trim, blue metal chairs; it's cute without being cutesy, so feel free to spend some time and check out the vintage signs and knick knacks on the shelves.
Definitely bring your sweet tooth to the loop this weekend, or pop in on your way to work next week. You won't regret it.
Chicago's fancy food fest returns this weekend to the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Tickets are still sort of available for the fourth iteration of the event (Saturday is sold out, but Sunday passes are still available for $163.50, two-day passes for $272.50, and Saturday Grand-Cru tasting passes for $190.75 -- the Dine Around is still an option as well if you've been doing your eating homework over the summer). The schedule is finally available online, so if you've already got your ticket in hand and liver warmed up, you may want to take some time to put together a game plan. Sure, wandering in and just grazing seems like a good idea -- until you find yourself halfway through a line 40 deep, waiting for a single shrimp on a stick, and you don't even have a drink with you. Thoughts on planning a great Chicago Gourmet outing after the jump.
If you're like me, you can't get enough cupcake shops. You're in luck! Crumbs Bake Shop is celebrating the grand opening of their third bake shop at 42 South Clark. They're commemorating the occasion by hosting a 1,000 cupcake giveaway this Friday beginning at noon.
In the press release, Crumbs co-founder Mia Bauer stated that "It has been a dream of mine to bring Crumbs to Chicago. The response from Chicagoans with our first shop in the Loop was better than we could have ever expected and we are thrilled to be opening in new neighborhoods!"
Coming this fall, Crumbs will open new locations at 346 North Clark and 1100 Lake Street in Oak Park.
Get ready South Loop, Trader Joe's is coming to your hood. This Friday (9/9) will mark the opening of TJ's highly anticipated South Loop store, opening on the corner of Roosevelt and Wabash in the former Sam's Wines spot. The specialty "neighborhood" grocery store continues its expansion in Chicago, opening amid an area with blocks of retail vacancies and restaurant closings. Opening at 8am, and complete with 47 free parking spaces, the grocery store will add a welcome variety to the neighborhood.
Trader Joe's South Loop is located at 1147 S. Wabash, and will be open 8am to 9pm seven days a week.
For you avid BHB fans out there, you may remember that the very first brick and mortar location opened by punk rock baking super-heros Michelle and Vinny Garcia was right on Chicago Avenue (where Chickpea is located now). Since then they moved into the Roscoe Village neighborhood as well as opened up a storefront in Oak Park. (You can expect to see another storefront popping up in Elmhurst in mid-September!) Can you believe it all began 8 years ago? Anyways, their story has come full circle and they are once again opening a bakery on Chicago Avenue, this time as a bakery slash diner & cafe. For any latecomers, don't worry, you'll be a part of the fan club soon enough, trust me. But with the grand opening on Monday (8/22 - bakery opens at 6am, the cafe at 7am) and the buzz and anticipation reaching the unbearable meter, expect to start queueing up.
When I lived in Athens for a bit, I always got a kick out of asking for skim milk at the kiosk down the street from my apartment building -- since the label for skim was green, you'd ask for "green" milk. It sounded a lot better in Greek: "To prasino gala, parakalo." So I smiled inwardly when I saw the sustainable semi-chain (they already have two suburban locations) Prasino is set to open in Wicker Park as early as this coming Monday -- though you can get an early look at a CS-sponsored event tonight. From the looks of it though, Prasino will put the chintzy plastic news-stand kiosks and cardboard milk cartons I keep mentally associating it with to shame. Occupying the first floor of that new construction they've been putting up FOREVER across the street from Moonshine, the newest addition to the Division dining scene will be sleek and modern, with eco-aware touches like burnished wood surfaces, corrugated cardboard lamp shades, and chairs upholstered in recycled polyester. (Urban Daddy has a pretty sweet slideshow.) According to their website, the building should be as energy-friendly as it is aesthetically pleasing.
The menu seems to reflect the building's aesthetic as well, with options like micro-brewed kombucha (which I'm not familiar enough with to be excited about); breakfast dishes like "Paris" eggs benedict with ham, brie, a pretzel croissant, and truffled hollandaise (pretzel...croissant? OK, that's kind of exciting...); small plates including a lobster-stuff avocado with chili buerre fondue (...FONDUE?); and a grilled Thai curry pork loan entree (OK. Officially kind of excited). Despite the Greek name and the presence of a few Mediterranean menu items, Prasino's palate ranges far and wide, from French to Tex-Mex style offerings. While they do have green eggs and ham, they don't have green milk. But everything else sounds pretty tasty.
Mrs. Fields is opening a new store at 242 S. State St. today (Thursday) and is giving away free cookies or a 16oz. latte all day long. The celebration continues Friday, August 12 through Monday, August 15, when you can choose either a cookie OR latte for just $0.99. Pop by and you can be singing the ABC's like this girl:
The store will be open Monday-Friday: 7am-9pm, Saturday 10am-8pm, Sunday 10am-7pm.
Vegans rejoice. Tomorrow marks the official opening of the California-based Native Foods Cafe on Milwaukee Avenue, with three other Chicago locations soon to follow (creating around 200 jobs -- bonus!). All menu items are under $10 and feature plant-based vegan foods, including owner Chef Tanya Petrovna's homemade tempeh (the only restaurant chain in the US to make their own). The Wicker Park location will also feature a "starving artists" room where local artists can display their work in exchange for free food. Aside from refreshingly tasty health conscious food, the 75-seat Cafe will also feature six local beers, including Two Brothers, Metropolitan, and Bells. Starting Tuesday, Aug. 9, you can visit the very first Chicago location at 1484 N. Milwaukee.
Last night and tonight, Revolution Brewing's second floor Brewer's Lounge is open to its Mug Club members. It opens to the general public on Wednesday, though it didn't seem like some exclusive club and we didn't have to flash our plastic card when we checked it out last night.
It's a huge space that features a stage with a tastefully illuminated logo behind it, a fireplace flanked by shelves filled with growlers and surrounded by couches to lounge on, and most important of all, a bar featuring almost all the beers you can get downstairs (except for those pesky cask ales). Don't worry, though, the full food menu and funky lights from downstairs are exactly the same upstairs (though the bathroom does seem fancier).
When Skilling says it's going to be 100 before the heat index is taken into account the last thing Chicagoans can think about is cooking. But thanks to Pasta Puttana's shop, newly opened on Grand Avenue, you can have dinner ready in 20 seconds flat. No joke.
Jessica Volpe aka Pasta Puttana has been a bit of a gypsy purveyor since June 2008 when she quit her full time gig at Terragusto to make her own local ingredient-based pastas. She has been making quite a name for herself, selling 2-serving packages of fresh pasta first at Edgewater Farmers Market and Dirk's Fish and now at Green City Market, Chicago Downtown Farmstand, Dill Pickle Food Co-op, Green Grocery, Olivia's Market, Whole Foods and Dirk's Fish.
Puttana's pastas are so simple, that one can hardly use the excuse "it's too hot to cook." On Wednesday night, my thermometer read 104 at 5:30pm and I still made this pasta. Trust me, it's just that easy. Ready? Don't blink cause you may miss the entire "recipe."
Bombay Spice Grill & Wine has opened in at 111 W. Illinois St. Chicago's River North district. Like the popular Phoenix location, this new outpost will serve healthy and authentic Indian cuisine.
This Indian inspired enclave is the brainchild of JNK Concepts and Chef Sunil Kumar. The flavor profiles one can enjoy here are inspired by traditional, wholesome recipes from Indian homes, but made a bit more heart healthy through the use of olive oil instead of ghee.
Most publications that review restaurants have a guideline that they don't review a restaurant during the first week or two they're open, because the kinks are getting worked out and why judge a restaurant when they're getting still getting into a groove? Some people disagree, others follow this judiciously; I was too excited about The Black Sheep opening to wait. But I also wasn't sure I'd write about it while they were still warming up.
However, on Friday night, just four nights after they opened their doors to a mostly adoring audience, I had nothing to worry about. I can't quite say that the only kinks were those coming out of the speakers, but I can say that the front of house team was definitely a team who worked together and filled in gaps where necessary. Much like you would expect from a band.
If you like chicken, fast-food and homophobia, the Chick-fil-A chain is opening up shop tomorrow morning at 30 East Chicago to service your needs. If you're a diehard fan, you can be part of the First 100 club--the first 100 people to get through the door tomorrow morning at 6am get free weekly Chick-fil-A meals for a year; the line forms at 6pm tonight, and the store will provide security, bathroom breaks, food, and games for the competitors (some of whom may be returning from the Aurora opening last fall) to pass the time.
If you're like me, you woke up this morning thinking: I want a donut. It's generally how I wake up every morning, but due to the lack of good donut options in the Chicago area, I find myself avoiding the delicious treat as a whole. However, May 18 this could all change. Dirty Betty's, to be located in the storefront of Cookie Bar on the corner of Lincoln and Altgeld, will feature 10 artisan donuts with flavors like Fresh Banana with Chocolate Nutella Glaze, Blueberry with Lemon Glaze, and Ginger Key Lime. Sold. There are few things I like more than key lime so this will be the first on my list of things to try and for $2.00, I may get a couple more...
Dirty Betty's will be open 7am to 10am Mondays through Fridays, and 10am to 10pm on Saturdays (closed Sundays - boo).
In some of the best news my Michigander mom has heard in a while, Francesca's Restaurants has just put out the word that they plan to go national.
If you live in the Chicagoland area you've probably eaten at one of their twenty restaurants, and if you haven't, then get out of town; you'll soon have sixty new restaurants across the U.S. to take home a doggy bag from.
Plans to mimic both the classic Francesca's style and the small plates at Davanti are already in the works in California and Arizona, with Raleigh, N.C. on the horizon.
Before you go complaining that the restaurant is leaving Chicago out in the dust, allow me to let you in on a little secret. Wicker Park's Francesca's Forno will be re-opening as a wine and bruschetteria shop under the name Panza, and if that's not enough, a donut shop named Glaze will be opening near the Blue Line tracks.
For those of you like me who live in the grocery store food desert in Lincoln Park, it appears that the Trader Joe's on Diversey and Orchard is set to open soon (some say May 6)! No longer will we have to pretend that it's safe to buy anything from the Lincoln Market, and can rejoice with $3 wine and affordable packaged goods. The shelves were stocked this morning, so it's only a matter of time!
Or so says a message published on Facebook today. They go on to say "It will be 6 PM to 1:30 AM - Wednesday through Sunday. Closed Monday - Tuesday.... once we open." Which, if you weren't paying attention, will most likely be next week! To get ourselves pumped up, let's watch Craig Schoettler make a bad ass Gin and Tonic. [Facebook]
Does this look like you on any given morning? Dream no more my friend. Gilt Bar opened up the Doughnut Vault yesterday, a walk up coffee and doughnut spot just around the corner (Franklin & Kinsie) from the glittery whiskey bar. Yesterday's doughnut flavors were buttermilk old fashioned and gingerbread stack with your choice of glaze -- chestnut, vanilla or chocolate. At $3 a pop, you can maybe even pick a whole box for your office mates and be the new favorite cubicle. Metropolis coffee is the perfect wash down at $1 per cup. Cash only.
"Mmmm Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?"
Chef Grant Achatz announced via Twitter that his eagerly anticipated new restaurant, Next, will likely open next Friday, April 6, with its Siamese twin bar, Aviary, delayed slightly. "We want 2 make it great," he tweeted.
Since Next's air travel-inspired booking system is not yet live, the best way to be sure when tickets for dinner are available is to sign up online and follow Achatz and the restaurant on Twitter. Meanwhile, Chicago magazine has an "annotated" look at one of the dishes soon to grace diners plates.
I'll leave the reviewing of Kanela to others. Not because the new Lakeview "breakfast club" (inhabiting the former home of Orange on Clark) isn't review-worthy, but because my brother happens to be the chef there, and that degree of nepotism seems extreme even for Chicago. Suffice to say, I'm very proud (and you can read a real review and some more details--scroll down!--on your own).
What I will write about is the presence of loukoumades on a Chicago menu. Now, you can get gyros at just about any burger shack from Andersonville to the far South Side; the taramosalata at the Greek Islands is salty and generous; the saganaki flaming up and down Halsted; Tina Fey has endorsed the roasted chicken at the Athenian Room; and good lord, the Greek-style yogurt is practically jumping off the supermarket shelves. My point is, it's not like Greek food isn't well-represented here. But I've never seen loukoumades anywhere in the city -- and there are few things better to chase a steaming pita full of succulent meat and tzatziki than a sticky-sweet ball of lemony fried dough. I'm generally not a fan of the fried pastry products, but this is a doughnut I can get behind. Possibly because I first tried it with the Mediterranean sun on my shoulders, made by a serious man named Stavros or Yannis, with a side of melty Nutella -- just in case the honey-lemon syrup wasn't doing its job to make my teeth ring. But it's so simultaneously light, crispy and chewy, so sweet and tart... I'm sold. At Kanela, bougatsa and coffee frappes are on the menu, but the Greekness of the restaurant name doesn't extend too far into the food itself. Thank goodness it made it to the loukoumades -- and at only $3 for a plate of 5-6 walnut- and cinnamon-dusted fritters, one can only hope it's a trend that will catch on. Opa!
Located next to the Empty Bottle, you may have noticed Bite Cafe has been closed for remodeling since January. Well, if you can wait just another week, it's set to reopen this coming Monday, March 21st.
In addition to the internal sprucing up, the remodel will also bring with it a more "classic American diner"-style menu. We're just hoping owner Bruce Finkelman's success at Longman & Eagle doesn't cause a price-jump at Bite; their brunch, lunch, and dinner options have always been affordable in our book.
Back in December we asked you all to help in making some Chicago homebrewers' dream come true. Beejay Oslon and Gerrit Lewis were trying to make their dream of Pipeworks Brewing a reality and asking for a bit of support from the people of Chicago. We caught up with the guys in mid-January after a hectic holiday season and found out:the Pipeworks guys did it! By January 1st, they had 492 backers pledged to donate $40,075.
Inquiring minds want to know, what are they doing with all that cash? So far, they have payed for the brewhouse (kettles, burners, etc to make the beer) which will be delivered in 8 weeks and have all the refrigeration needed to keep their precious brews cold. Pipeworks is still on the hunt for the right fermentation equipment and will be sitting down with the Aldermen of Chicago to see who wants to host the micro-brewery (fingers are crossed for the 43rd!).
"We're all systems go and full speed ahead right now with a lot of work to do," said Beejay. "This is incredibly exciting, after over two years of work we see some light at the end of the tunnel... it is still unclear exactly how much tunnel is left though!!"
Their Facebook page is the best place to track their progress as the move towards opening a storefront. We solemnly promise to keep you all updated and get first crack at the brews once the guys have their doors and taps open. Congrats Beejay and Gerrit! And congrats to Chicago, who in backing these guys, proved once again that it supports artisans in their craft!
Today this could only be Rob Levitt (although I'm sure his staff are also equally happy), since he's opening The Butcher & Larder today from noon to 4pm. He'll also be open on Monday, which many of you should have off work, from 10am to 7pm. He's starting out with just cuts of meat to sell, but will have his full selection of sandwiches and other noshables on Wednesday.
Lynn Neils and her husband, Jim, were the first people on line outside Crumbs Bake Shop, patiently waiting for free cupcakes. They got there at 11am, and by the time I arrived at about 11:45, the line wound around the lobby of 303 West Madison.
To celebrate the NYC-based chain's Chicago opening, the store was giving away 1,000 of their muffin-sized cupcakes. With its huge selection of gourmet baked goods -- including the Elvis, a vanilla cupcake with banana cream-cheese frosting and sprinkled with peanut-butter chips -- Crumbs has already developed a prettystrongfollowing on the East Coast. Add that to the promise of free food, and you get a revolving door spinning nonstop on opening day.
Signs spotted on the door of the shuttered Rustico Grill (2515 N. California) announce the future opening of Gosu, a Korean and Japanese restaurant. Judging from the inside, which looks mostly unchanged from the days of its former tenant, it will be a while.
Back in October we at Gapers Block told you about a new brewery which was springing up in Chicago. We still had leaves on the trees and I was still drinking hefeweizen, as the guys of Pipeworks Brewing were counting their pennies. We all made the transitions to amber, then double IPAs and now full on stouts (tis the season after all) and Pipeworks has 12 more days to reach their goal: $30,000 by 11:59 on Dec. 31.
Beejay Oslon and Gerrit Lewis have come a long, long way. After meeting while working at one of the best places in this city to buy craft beer, West Lakeview Liquors, these two have moved to Belgium to spend 3 months learning from a master and made innumerable batches of creative homebrew in Beejay's basement. For most, this is enough. You have your job, you have your hobby and we Americans know that it is often too difficult to merge the two. But Beejay and Gerrit have a passion for brewing running through their pipes, er, veins.
Popular and aptly named Wicker Park bagel purveyor, Bagel on Damen, is adding another location -- still on Damen, but about 35 blocks north. The new shop is taking over the former and, I always thought, un-fully realized Damen Kitchen and Cellar space directly under the Damen Brown Line stop. Renovations have been progressing for the past several weeks, brightening up the formerly cave-like space for Monday's grand opening. The new shop promises the same doughy rounds and creatively spiked cream cheeses (white truffle and toasted pine nut, nom nom nom) as its older sister, but will also feature booze, and stay open until 7pm, ready to ply evening commuters with carbs and alcohol as they step off the train. And if that's not intriguing enough, they're also hiring...
Like moths to a chicken flame, residents from all over the Chicagoland area descended upon Wheaton yesterday with sleeping bags in tote. For the third time in as many months, Chik-fil-A opened the doors to yet another location today, and that can only mean one thing: tent city.
Another link in the long chain of Chicago beer and sausage joints in Chicago, Bangers & Lace opened at Division and Paulina this week. B&L has a lot to live up to. We are Chicagoans. We know our encased meats and we know our beer. We've been educated by Hot Dougs, Wolfy's, Franks & Dawgs and the Publican to name a few. But B&L is being brought to you by some heavy hitters, which you can see when you walk in the door. The decor feels like a woodsy Bar DeVille, with plenty of taxidermy, lace in the windows and men in plaid shirts serving your suds. With the wisdom of the guys of Lumen and Duchamp (Jason Freiman & Nick Podesta) and from Bar DeVille and Nightwood (Matt Eisler & Kevin Heisner), B&L looks like it will take its place among the greats, a hot link on Division.
Start with Ham Roasted Nuts. I'm a big fan of crispy bacon -- attributed to my mother who on Saturday mornings would be laughing so hard at Click and Clack that she would forget to keep an eye on the sizzling meats. I'd end up with crumbly, carbon-y bits of bacon that I grew to love. Somehow at the taste of these peanuts heard a Boston accent cackling away. The Lamb Flatbread is perfect: lamb sausage sliced thin on crispy flat bread, green harissa for a little tang, fried chickpeas for a little crunch and feta cheese for the salt to balance the whole piece. I appreciate the attempt at a salad, as not everything should be wrapped in intestine, but their Romaine salad doesn't quite hit it. The idea is great: crispy romaine, dill-buttermilk dressing, thinly sliced apples and peppery radish, but somehow it just ended up tasting wet and cold. Not quite the warm-up I'm looking for on a cold Thursday night. The simply named Corn Dog should be at the top of the menu, in bold and underlined. Dipped in brioche batter, deep fried and brought to you fresh and piping hot with their house made mustard reminded me of freshly made donuts at the state fair -- you know, the ones where you stand in line for 10 minutes to get them straight out of the fryer. Thin crispy shell with a smooth buttery batter surrounding a salty Vienna Beef dog as a self-declared connoisseur of corn dogs, this one makes top five ever.
"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not eaten well."
If Scott Harris of the Francesca family wanted my attention, he had it by opening the menu to this delightful phrase. I'm readily adopting his headliner as my life motto, and voraciously scanning the menu.
Davanti Enoteca is the newest addition to the Mia Francesca's family: a take on rustic Italian food, made available by seasonal Midwest ingredients and made intriguing without being regionally specific. Typically, you think Mia Francesca's and you think mounds of pasta with meaty sauces. Not so at Davanti. The menu reads like the farm-to-table craze that we've all seen before: pork belly, varying bruchetta, farm eggs, meat from Mint Creek and Slagel and yet, something feels different here. Savory ragu roasts are paired with airy light mascarpone polenta and spread on a board at table side. Pizza with leek and mushroom is drizzled with truffle oil and the sharpest taleggio I've ever had. The Uovo, daily made large-style ravioli pasta with ricotta and spinach piped around the edge, egg yolk in the center and served in a sage butter sauce, sits lightly in your mouth.
Jonathan Beatty, who helped open Purple Pig is overseeing the menu as executive chef. And weekly Saturday night specials means he can play with seasonality and ingredients of his choice. The back of the restaurant doubles as a wine boutique. Rather than a traditional wine menu, Davanti allows patrons to buy wine at the boutique at commercial prices and then charges a $7 corking fee. To be honest, I can't tell you how nice it was to drink a glass of wine from a $30 bottle of wine and actually have it cost $30, rather than the standard 2-3 times as much.
The crowd is a good mix of locals and rapidly increasing by those of us being tempted back down to Taylor Street after a long hiatus. The decor is a cozy mix of re-purposed wood, spaghetti western posters, found farming equipment and Chianti chandeliers; the back boutique section feels as if you're sitting in some Italian baron's country wine cave. Harris is working on two new projects in the area and is hoping to re-establish Little Italy to it's former glory, and more. If these others are half as lovable as Davanti, I'll be hitting up T Street once a week.
For a newbie restaurant, Davanti has it all figured out. The food is approachable, the prices affordable, and the staff affable. I'll be headed back next week in order to keep my thinking, loving and sleeping in shape.
Walking down Belmont last night toward Schubas, I saw a banner hanging outside of what was formerly known as Joey's Brickhouse on Belmont. Running late to meet my friend, I only had time to snap a cell-phone shot from across the street -- in case it's hard to read this horrible photo, the banner reads, "Coming Soon: La Gondola."
I'd never heard of La Gondola, but Internet research revealed that, although small, its other location (in a Lakeview strip mall) has a loyal fan following. I'm looking forward to trying it in its new, less claustrophobic-sounding location -- as well as its tripe Florentine.
Chicago French Market will take care of all your cravings: Vietnamese, Italian, Mexican, Korean, Indian but there always seemed to be something missing on this list. That certain, je ne sais quoi. Putting a little more francais back in Chicago French Market is LM Restaurant. Lincoln Square's French-gastro-bistro favorite, LM is bringing it's Parisian street fare to the mix.
From their press release:
"LM Café's menu highlights include Le Jambon-Beurre, a buttered baguette with ham, with non-traditional toppings like pickles, cheese and a homemade tomato jam. LM Café also serves three varieties of the classic French sandwich Croque Monsieur: traditional ham and Emmental cheese; smoked salmon; and turkey and Camembert. On the lighter side, LM Café's salads include Nicoise Salad, Chef's Salad and Savoyard Salad, an Eastern France-inspired salad with croutons, frisée, bacon and cheese. Rounding out the menu are Pâté, Rillettes, Fish Terrine and a variety of desserts, including Mousse and Normandy-style rice pudding, Teurgoule."
The Café will open tomorrow, October 12th and prices range from $5 - $7.
131 N. Clinton St. (between Randolph and Washington Streets); Chicago
Monday - Friday, 7 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Saturday, 8:30 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Shortly after their first child was born last year, chefs Timothy and Elizabeth Dahl moved from Chicago to Madison, WI, to start up a new restaurant. The spot opened Thursday, with about 70-80 customers on their first night. Called Nostrano, which means "ours" in Italian, it's a Mediterranean restaurant (with eastern French, Portuguese, Spanish, and, of course, Italian influences) focused on showcasing local, homegrown foods.
The Dahls, both former pastry chefs (Timothy at Blackbird, and Elizabeth at Boka and Landmark), moved up to Madison to be closer to his family. Elizabeth still plans Nostrano's dessert menu, but Timothy was ready to get away from pastries. Nostrano's menu is collaborative--each chef in the kitchen comes up with a dish on the menu, and they all go shopping together at one of Madison's daily farmers' markets for fresh ingredients. Timothy plans to change the menu often. Otherwise, he says, "I get bored."
Tonight The Crossing opens as the latest addition to the Four Corners Tavern Group. Coming hot off the heels of the Benchmark opening, The Crossing is going to be a sports haven for those who like good beer, good food and LOTS of TVs. I had the fortunate experience of dining there earlier this week and testing out the new menu.In some ways the menu was completely what I expected; in others, it was surprising. Staples like chicken tenders and burgers are a must, however unexpected items like Korean steak tacos and truffle cheese mushroom pizza made me happy.
This night the food was free, so naturally I wanted to stuff my face with as many options as possible. To start we ordered the jalapeno spinach artichoke dip. The dip was creamy, with just a little spice. Being from Texas, I like my dips a little spicier. If I were to go back though I would probably get the buffalo rolls that they have at other Four Corners bars, because they are just so wonderful.
Hub 51 is your go to joint. The ladies are great, the food even better, and hey, you don't mind bumping into Jay Cutler every now and then.
Well loyal customer, it's time to head to Paris, but don't take out your passport just yet. A few doors down from the wildly successful joint you've grown to love comes Paris Club (59 W. Hubbard St.), a new venture brought to you by RJ and Jerrod Melman (sons of Rich Melman, founder of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises).
The club is currently slated to open in mid-November, so you have a few more months to rub elbows with Cutler over at Hub.
Today, eight weeks after a fire claimed the life of a Chicago firefighter at Avec, Paul Kahan announced via Twitter that the restaurant's re-opening is finally at hand. He tweeted: "Avec. Finally moving forward! Opening soon!" It's not much to go on, but The Feast also has their office manager, Renee Johnson, as saying that "the restaurant received their final permit yesterday afternoon--but won't be able to start construction until Monday." [Twitter, Feast]
London-based retail chain Pret A Manger, known for its prepared sandwiches, salads, soups, desserts and coffee, will open its first Chicago location at 211 West Adams Street tomorrow. A second Windy City location will open in late fall at 100 North LaSalle Street. Oakbrook-based McDonald's Corporation previously owned a 33% stake in Pret A Manger but sold its shares to a private equity firm in 2008. In the U.S., Pret A Manger also has shops in New York and Washington, D.C.
I've always been wary of restauranthype. Like going to see the summer movie everyone's been buzzing about, I find lower expectations (or ideally, a lack of expectations) tend to enhance my final enjoyment -- as with the "Going the Distance," for example. Rarely, the hype turns out to be warranted -- the food (or characterization) really is as good as you keep overhearing, and the expectant excitement of your fellow diners or audience members only seems to sharpen your own experience, magnifying everything you feel and mirroring it on the faces of everyone else in the room. Like "Inception." Or better yet, since I'm not a movie critic, like new West Town sushi and izakaya joint Arami.
Two trips in two weeks and the full effect of what is unquestionably the best sushi in the West Town area (and yes, I'm including both Coast and Mirai in that estimation) has yet to fade into the dissatisfied haze of a fleeting fad. Even upon reflection, it seriously is that good. Let's move on to some spoilers...
The beloved Saigon Sisters, who started their Vietnamese-food kiosk at the Chicago French Market, are growing up. Started in late 2009, their baby is expanding to a real, counter-service, breakfast-lunch-dinner restaurant in the Fulton River District (and don't worry -- the French Market location will still be there). The Sisters plan to set up shop in late fall at 567 W. Lake Street, serving the same kinds of dishes that kept its customers coming back for more phở and bánh mì.
The new spot will include:
A "more inventive" menu, including tapas-style Vietnamese street food -- partly thanks to new executive chef Matt Eversman
Seating -- the restaurant will hold about 40 people
Though it's not set to open until Thursday, hundreds of chicken enthusiasts (possibly some homeless) have amassed outside Chicagoland's first Chick-fil-A location in the hopes of receiving free chicken for a year. The Atlanta-based fast food chain, which the Sun-Times hilariously describes as "a chicken sandwich eatery," has a longstanding tradition of encouraging people to come out a full 24 hours before the grand opening of a new location. Once there, tents are erected and line-standers are treated to games, a DJ, and of course, the promise of free chicken. At 6 the following morning, if you're one of the first hundred people in line, you'll receive 52 vouchers, each worth one chicken sandwich. In November of 2009, comedian Dave Hill attended one such event and brilliantly chronicled the nightlong extravaganza for This American Life. If you're wondering what type of person trades a day of his life for roughly $150 worth of mediocre chicken sandwiches, listen to this. [The Chicago Sun-Times]
As Kaitlin reported, City Provisions' delicatessen officially opens tomorrow -- but the deli held a soft launch today. Seeing as my office is a block away, I couldn't help but have a look. (Also, I was hungry.)
The space is clean and inviting, and shows the time and care put into building out the space. The environmentally conscious design was designed to be as energy efficient and carbon neutral as possible, using reclaimed wood (including some from a pre-Chicago fire Lincoln Park home!) and other materials. As you walk in from the corner door, next to the Brown Line tracks, you're greeted by a wall of regionally produced spirits and microbrews, with a view of the meat counter in the back.
Last summer City Provisions announced its plan to create a local, sustainable deli in Ravenswood. After attending one of the catering company's monthly Supper Club events, I've been hooked and have been anxiously awaiting the opening of this deli.
City Provisions Delicatessen will open its doors on September 3 and will feature a wide array of fresh ingredients, most coming from a 200 mile radius of Chicago. Chicagoans will be treated to prepared meats (made in-house) and cheeses, homemade salads and sandwiches. Off the shelf fare includes jams, jellies and spreads from local food artisans, bread from Nicole's Bakery and Bennison's, ice cream from Ruth and Phil's and Nice Cream, coffee from Crop to Cup, spirits from Koval Distillery, Death's Door Spirits and North Shore Distillery, plus regional small batch beer and sustainably produced wines. The raw meat case--with made to order cuts of meat (smoked on site)--contains meat raised from within a 200 mile radius of Chicago, and butchered on site.
"I believe it is important to know where your food comes from and what goes into getting it to your plate," said owner, Cleetus Friedman. "We want to be a focal point for the community and be a source for education about the local food movement."
I'm especially excited about the fresh-smoked meat, cheeses and ice cream. What more could you want from your neighborhood deli?
City Provisions Delicatessen
1818 West Wilson Avenue, Chicago
If you ever point to your hand when describing where you grew up then you undoubtedly know that Leo's Coney Island is only "like, the best place EVER". Well Michiganders turned Chicagoans, get ready to increase your weekly intake of Coney Dogs and Greek Salads (dressing on the side) - rumor has it Leo's just might be expanding into The Loop.
If you feel like wandering the streets of Korea, but don't have enough dollars to convert into won, Lincoln Park upstart Del Seoul Restaurant will help you get your vicarious travels in when they open up their "Korean Street BBQ" joint on the corner of Clark & Wrightwood.
The restaurant has been gaining a head of steam even before it opens, garnering over 500 Facebook friends, a mention in Chicago magazine, and even notice in the New York Times, as the Korean street food fad sweeps across the nation. Del Seoul is the latest restaurant from the Jeon family, proprietors of Senoya Restaurant in Niles, and will be run by the brother-and-sister team of Pete and Irene Jeon.
With their decidedly youthful approach to Del Seoul, the Jeon progeny will be offering up a menu where one can get their bahn mi, bibimbap, or dumpling dinners all for less than $10. The main focus of Del Seoul though will be their four unique varieties of their take on the Korean taco: soju-soy marinated beef short rib; spicy Korean red-pepper rubbed grilled pork; grilled garlic-soy marinated chicken, and the killer of them all, hand-battered panko shrimp with sesame-chili sauce.
Del Seoul is slated to open in late September/early October at 2568 N. Clark St.
My roommates and I are excited that there's a new sushi place at Division and Hermitage -- especially since it's replaced the old Fuel space, whose food was kind of blah and drinks were way more expensive than they were worth.
Below is our e-mail discussion about the new sushi and sake lounge Makisu (1725 W. Division St.). I've abbreviated the names to protect the innocent.
Me: New sushi place, right by us! Very exciting...
E: Finally, something in the old Fuel space! Hopefully it's less douchey:)...
Me: Since they popped up at around the same time, I honestly don't know how Edge is still standing. There's never anyone in there when I walk by.
E: I know, I forget that Edge is even still there.
L: They should move over next to the Boundary. Then they'd be their own little Lincoln Park oasis. Sushi is far better than Fuel.
Makisu's soft opening is today; it officially opens Thursday, August 26.
Previously run by Maria Marszewski since 1986, and now run by her sons Ed and Mike, Maria's has undergone a bit of a face lift while still keeping that package store charm.
With some new furnishings (including beer bottle chandeliers and butcher's block tables), a bit of rearrangement, and a dash of local art, Maria's is looking to be less of an "old man dive bar" and more of a community bar.
The bar will have ten beers on tap, and about 100 other micro and specialty brews available as well.
Swing by on Friday (27 August) between 7pm and 2am for the grand opening!
4. Beginning at 10am, on opening day only, a name will be drawn every nine minutes to win a free burger meal weekly for one year.
5. At 9pm one winner will be chosen to win a free burger meal weekly for life.
6. In addition, for the first nine days of operation any guest who is "dressed to the nines" in formal wear (a tuxedo or evening gown) will receive a free meal (entree, side and drink). Business wear is not eligible.
7. We're not done yet. The restaurant's nine signature burgers will be featured, one a day, for the first nine days the restaurant is open. Trying to watch your waistline? Three of the nine are signature Lean and Green burgers: Islander (Ahi tuna), Yin & Yang (edamame), and Town & Country (turkey).
8. Wonder how they taste? To make sure their menu is up to par, Tom and Eddie's served entrees to 1,200 taste testers over the course of eight weeks using the kitchens of the Culinary Arts Program at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.
9. Still picky? The "Me, Myself and I" burger allows customers to create their very own sandwich from a menu of 41 different items including cheeses, toppings, sauces and rolls.
These days your luck is about as rare as a five star Lohan flick. You just left work late for the third day in a row because your boss conveniently asked you to revise that Excel spreadsheet at 5:01pm and to top it off the zipper on your bag fittingly broke spilling your belongings on the 'L' platform only to reveal to the world that yes, you're reading Twilight (for at least the third time judging by the worn out cover).
Before you dial 1-888-YOUR-CTA to complain that your headed-north train is delayed just to let your rage out on an innocent customer service representative, gather your things (the Team Edward shirt can come too), re-swipe your CTA card and head straight to Cafe 676, 676 North Michigan Ave., at the Omni Hotel.
Just steps away from tourist packed Magnificent Mile, Cafe 676 is an unassuming, farm-to-table venture from the mind of Chef Daven Wardynski. Practicing and preaching sustainable and organic cooking, the cafe's menu features local fare using ingredients from around the Midwest as well as Wardynski's own rooftop garden.
Thinking about retiring that jersey that you wore the whole month of June for the next four years? Think again. Chicago's newest soccer bar, The Pitch, is opening this weekend to keep you in the game. Settling in the old once-was-John-Barleycorn-Lincoln Park-then-Cagneys, we're hoping this one sticks around a bit longer than its predecessors. Run by the guys behind Rocks and the Technical Director of the Chicago Fire, the Pitch has three floors, 30 screens, 12 taps and made from scratch grub-- all you need to keep your eyes glued to the 11 on the field.
Opening this weekend.
2142 N Clybourn Ave, at Wayne
Jack Tripper and the Three's Company gals at the Regal Beagle.
Where the kitschy Reagle Beagle used to stand downtown, a more loungey sports bar has moved in. Over the course of several months, renovations have stripped the joint of its '70s and '80s vibe, and it reopens today as Grami. The name has nothing to do with music awards or your mama's mama--as ChicagoNow explains, "it's a mash-up of its nearby intersection of Grand and Michigan." To draw a happy-hour crowd, they have drink specials every day--I'm going tonight and looking forward to the $4 sangria--and there's a selection of your standard pub food to soak up the booze.
Attention hipster-Parisian wannabes: you still have time to find the perfect "looks like I pulled these out of the dollar bin at the local Salvation Army but really cost me a pretty penny" 501s and Ray-Bans. Maude's Liquor Bar, 840 W. Randolph St., a French barbecue joint set to open in less than three months, will be "like a dive bar in Paris" according to owner Brendan Sodikoff of Gilt Bar fame. In a recent interview with Chicago magazine, Sodikoff says fare will include "fresh-made sausage, grilled food and a raw bar." You can check out the bar's construction blog here (and with Sodikoff acknowledging that timing is subject to change, you might just have time to grow out a looks-believable shaggy hipster do in time for the grand opening).
The last two years have been fickle for restaurants, bars, bakeries and nationally franchised creameries trying to make a go of it in Old Town. While some have flourished (The Twisted Baker, Perennial, Old Town Social), many more have - metaphorically speaking - burned down, fallen over, and sunk into the swamp (Eivissa, Old Town Brasserie, Spoon).
That's why we've watched the progress being made on Four Corners Tavern's newest venture, Benchmark, with particular interest. Some of us lucky ones could even hear the progress all spring because we live so close that incessant amounts of hammering would wake us up every morning at 7:00am. Even on Saturdays.
Wells Street in Old Town is fast becoming Chicago's premiere destination for unique, upscale confections. In a two block stretch, one can find The Twisted Baker, Delightful Pastries, The Fudge Pot and the vague outlines of a burgeoning Kilwins. Today, we can add Palermo Bakery to the list, as it opened the doors to its third - and unquestionably most accessible - location at 1533 N. Wells St., in the shell of a defunct Coldstone Creamery. Along with serving all the usual suspects - crescents, cannolis, cartoccis, and pasticciottis - Palermo's Old Town location is the only one to serve gelato.
While two doors down, The Twisted Baker sat dark - it closes at the frustratingly early hour of 7pm on weeknights - Palermo was downright hopping, on this decidedly perfect July evening.
Goodbye French Toast ice cream. Hello Pistachio Amaros and Amaretti Verdis.
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Black Dog Gelato was opening up shop in their first digs at 859 North Damen when I rode by this morning.Owner and pastry chef Jessica Oloroso has a lot of tasty ideas: her opening day menu includes goat cheese cashew caramel (my favorite three things) and avocado cinnamon, and a sorbet menu for those seeking lighter fare. Black Dog also will offer a few frozen novelties, among them a whiskey gelato bar that is dipped in milk chocolate and candied bacon. Yowza.
Food truck hopeful Chef Matt Maroni opens the storefront version of Gaztro-Wagon at 11am tomorrow, June 8, at 5973 N. Clark St. There's usually plenty of parking along this relatively desolate stretch of Clark, just north of Ridge, though you may have to hunt for space as all the city's food writers descend in advance of the planned proposal of revised food truck ordinances in City Council on Wednesday.
Chicago has seen an influx of cheerful frozen yogurt chains from Asia. This season brings something new from Taiwan: shaved ice cream from Cloud 9. Brother-and-sister entrepreneurs Kenny and Gawin Tsai, with the help of the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago, have opened a shaved-ice-cream spot in Lakeview. The IJ clinic helped with Chicago's red tape, leaving Kenny and Gawin free to concentrate on the Taiwanese ice cream, also known as Xue-Hua-Bing. They offer a few flavors each day--currently including vanilla, mango, strawberry and chocolate. They're also quietly testing red bean and green tea, which they let my family sample the night we went in to check it out. The vanilla was refreshing, but held no surprises. The mango had a nice tartness, and the green tea had a bite. The ice cream, made in house, is naturally low in fat; it's not made with as much sugar or cream as traditional ice cream. It comes out of Cloud 9's freezer in a disc-shaped block, and after being shaved by machine, it lands in soft layers in a bowl. Like cotton candy, it looks larger and denser than it actually is. The toppings, too, are low in sugar. The fruit syrups contain no added sweeteners, and cut-up fruit, nuts, sprinkles or chocolate syrup are available as well. Each heaping bowl of snow ice is served with a plastic fork, the better to grab the flaky layers with. And, while at first it might seem flaky and ice cream don't belong in the same sentence, by the end of the summer I think many Chicagoans will find they enjoy ice cream in flakes.
Arlington Park is open for the season and celebrated the Kentucky Derby on Saturday May 1st. There were blue skies, big hats and mint juleps for all!
This traditional Southern drink is great for keeping cool and simple to make.
4 fresh mint sprigs
2 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 tsp powdered sugar
2 tsp water
In a collins glass, muddle mint leaves, water and powdered sugar. Add crushed ice, then bourbon, and finish with more ice along with a mint sprig.
Arlington Park offers party packages, which I highly recommend for summer birthdays, as well as themed events every weekend until closing day on Sept. 26. Even if you aren't big on placing bets, the park is gorgeous and has great grounds for mingling.
No, not this black dog. Black Dog Gelato is taking over the space formerly occupied by Piccolo at 859 North Damen. Your next sugar crawl will require minimal effort, as Black Dog will be across the street from the newly relocated Sweet Cakes (901 North Damen).
Until October of 2007, Dodo served Ukrainian Village a lively breakfast and lunch next to the original location of Sweet Cakes. This Sunday, Dodo re-emerges on Fulton in the old Dino's Morgan Inn space and continues on subsequent weekends from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Operator Kim Dalton told me that she'll have the tofu scram I loved from before. "Even people who aren't vegetarian or vegan love this dish." It was one of their biggest sellers. "I mostly eat vegetables even though I eat meat," Dalton added. The menu will evolve over time, and Dodo is open to suggestions.
During the week, Dodo yields the space back to Dino's to serve up affordable burgers, Old Style beer and pancakes, open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Don't expect many, if any, vegan options here - at least at first. "I'm going to have to be ready," Dalton thought ahead, as she told me many requests have come in for vegetarian and vegan options at the new Dodo.
954 West Fulton Market, opening this Sunday, April 25, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
After a few delays and hippups, Green City Market vendors Floriole Cafe & Bakery is now open in a permanent location at 1220 W. Webster. Stop by for a slice of quiche, rustic pastries, sea salt caramels or a scone and a mug Intelligentsia coffee. In the future they will be serving sandwiches and salads. Make sure to check up the lovely reclaimed wood table on the 2nd floor. Check out more pictures from my visit here.
Not since the days of the long-gone Busy Bee has the Wicker Park stretch of Damen seen an unfussy diner on its street! A new 24-hour outpost of Clarke's has opened in the space formerly occupied by Bar Louie (1704 N Damen, at Wabansia). Round-the-clock pancakes for everyone!
"We're excited and relieved to be back," says Jeff Linnane, co-owner of Filter, the beloved coffeehouse in Wicker Park's Flatiron Building which closed in late 2007. Filter reopened Friday, Jan. 29, at 1373 N. Milwaukee Ave., sharing a front door with Copenhagen Cyclery. Former regulars will be pleased to hear that most of the menu has made the move intact -- your hipster hash has returned -- and the coffee is still from Intelligentsia. However, there are definitely some big differences, with more on the way.
Manager and co-owner Stephanie Linnane, who joined her husband Jeff and partner Jeff Stella in ownership last year, says Filter will be roasting its own coffee using beans from Intelligentsia -- as soon as the big, black commercial roaster that takes up a corner of the ordering area is fixed. "We plan to give the clientele a variety [of coffee varietals] to try, and maybe have a comment board to collect opinions on which ones they like," she says.
Longman & Eagle brings vintage charm, gastropub fare and a hearty whiskey list to Logan Square. The team behind the Empty Bottle recently opened this new venture to enthusiastic early reviews and a packed dining room. Taking advantage of the prime location just across the street from the Logan Square Blue Line station, half a dozen guest rooms will be available for rent above the restaurant in the coming weeks.
Kendall College graduate Jared Wentworth serves elegantly presented contemporary comfort food. We stopped in for drinks and shared the House Marinated Olives and the Kobe Meatballs with creamy polenta and parsley pesto. Both were excellent. The extensive drink menu boasts a wide range of whiskey, including a $3 "whiskey for drinking" section, cocktails and good beer selection. Even after the opening excitement dies down, Longman & Eagle is sure to be a mid-priced favorite.
"Veganism isn't just for the granolas anymore." This may or may not have been the exact way the Karyn put it - we were well into a great bottle of Shiraz-Cabernet at this point - but the gist is the same. However you put it, Karyn's latest - Karyn's on Green - is anything but granola.
We were walking past the Looking Glass Theater building last night, when I noticed a sign for First Slice Pie Cafe. Curious, I walked into the Water Works Visitor Center, one of the City's two visitor centers. To my delight, there it was, a new branch of the Ravenswood-based cafe, with a glass case brimming with decadent pies (think velvety chocolate cream and luscious wine-poached pears) and hearty quiches.
I'm deeply in love with their original Ravenswood location. A venture by chef Mary Ellen Diaz, First Slice serves creative salads, satisfying sandwiches and drool-inducing baked goods in beautiful, handmade ceramics (that are created in the clay studio in the same building). And this is only a half of the story: First Slice uses the profit from the cafe operation (as well as a supper subscription program) to serve the same high-quality meals to the hungry. It's a place to get updated comfort food with good vibe--organic, local and helpful. Now we can get their tasty fare downtown.
The person behind the counter informed me that their downtown location has been open for a month or so. Hours are quite accommodating: My lucky hubby who works nearby can get his lunch or early supper there, and I have one more decent lunch option while on my occasional weekend romp around Magnificent Mile. I'm pretty sure we'll be back soon.
Chef Graham Elliot Bowles of the eponymous River North restaurant announced a new venture via Twitter this afternoon. Grahamwich is slated to open in spring 2010 and will offer sandwiches, snacks and soft serve with daytime and evening hours. Chef's move to more casual fare is not surprising given the popularity of his lobster corn dogs at last year's Lollapalooza. According to Chef's tweet today, more information about the new project is coming soon to www.grahamwich.com.
Look outside: the weather sucks, so the Soup and Bread series has returned to the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia) to warm you up and get some soup in your craw, all in the spirit of charity. From 5:30-8pm each Wednesday this winter (starting tonight!), volunteer local chefs and foodies will prepare a selection of soups for your casual slurping from the bar's crock pots. Donations collected at the bar will be given to a selected food pantry or soup kitchen this season: tonight's recipient is the food pantry at Logan Square's Saint John Berchmans Catholic Church. And while you're there, pick up a copy of the Soup and Bread cookbook, which features recipes from last year's chefs.
Beard Papa, a Japanese bakery chain that specializes in cream puffs, opened in the basement of the Block 37 mall today. My hubby, who had been there earlier, reported that there was a pretty long line of (mostly East Asian) customers snaking out the door.
I'm among these Asians who have been anxiously awaiting this day. With all the financial trouble that Block 37 was reported to be in, I'd been growing a little pessimistic. But no more--it's finally here!
Hubby brought back a chocolate-covered, custard-filled cream puff, and it was delicious. (Sorry, no pictures, because, well, I already ate it. Update: here's one in the Flickr GB pool, thanks to KidItamae.) The shell is crunchy, the chocolate is actually chocolate-y, and the custard is soothingly smooth. It's a good thing I don't use the Red and Blue lines any more--otherwise, I'd find it difficult to resist the temptations when changing trains there: you'd pass the bakery as you transfer from one to the other.
After five years of planning, the Logan Square Dill Pickle Food Co-op opened its doors this past Saturday to overwhelming community support. This member-owned co-op aims to offer affordable local, sustainable and organic goods to members and non-members alike.
The third location of Lush Wine & Spirits celebrated its opening in style on Friday night with a well attended, free tasting party. Visitors sampled a dozen beers, over twenty-five wines and few small-batch gins while speaking with Lush staff and distributor reps. (The Ransom Old Tom Gin pictured here was superb.)
A generous spread of appetizers helped pace the crowd.
The West Town site is the boutique wine store's largest location yet. A beautiful horseshoe bar connects the retail portion of the store to a space reserved for private events, tastings and classes. This location will also offer a selection of cheeses and charcuterie.
With three well-placed locations at Halsted & Roosevelt, Western & Addison, and now Chicago & Noble, Lush Wine & Spirits makes an easy stop on the evening commute for many. We highly recommend letting the knowledgeable staff help you choose the perfect wine, beer or spirit for your next weeknight dinner or weekend event.
Lush Wine & Sprits - West Town
1412 West Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642
Chicago's new European inspired French Market opened at the Ogilvie Metra Center in the West Loop Thursday. Its focus will be on local artisan purveyors -- the current tagline of the food industry.
The year round indoor market was developed in partnership with the Bensidoun family, fourth generation Parisian market operators. They're attempting to recapture some of the vitality and entrepreneurial spirit that fell pray to mass marketing here in the States post WWII.
Besides offering essential convenience products, the Market strives to provide distinctive small batch culinary experiences featuring local bounty. At 15,000 square feet, there's room for 25-30 purveyors. At opening they were about 80 percent leased.
The much-anticipated Chicago French Market opens tomorrow (Thursday) in Ogilvie Transportation Center, with much fanfare. Celebrations include market bags for the first 500 customers tomorrow through Saturday, $5,000 worth of gift certificates being distributed on Friday and Saturday, and a wine tasting on Friday from 4 to 7:30 pm.
I have been waiting for the French market to open for months, since they were initially slated to open this spring/summer. As I walked past it this evening on the way home, the space was bustling with last-minute preparations. A green grocer was stacking up pineapples, and someone in Pastoral's counter was wiping their gleaming meat slicer. And the best part--my nose told me that there's going to be at least one really good baker in the mix; the sweet and tangy smell of lemon bars baking somewhere in the market was just about irresistible.
A list of vendors is available here. With an organic green grocer, a Vietnamese take-out and more bakeries than you can shake a stick at, this market will most certainly contribute to the enhanced lunchtime happiness of the area workers--which happen to include me.
The second outpost of Delightful Pastries, Dobra Bielinski and Stasia Hawyrszczuk's European-inspired enterprise, opened in Old Town last Friday. Unlike the Jefferson Park location, the Old Town space is a cafe that is at once expansive and cozy. It already seemed, early on Sunday morning, to be part of the morning routine of people from the neighborhood who settled in for pastry and coffee with their families and newspapers.
One of the most notable additions to Delightful Pastries' offerings with the new store is an array of hand-crafted chocolate confections. All made from Callebaut chocolate, opening weekend selections included dark chocolate pistachio cherry bark, milk chocolate salted almond bark, milk chocolate passionfruit apricot truffles and Swiss Rockers (milk chocolate hazelnut praline truffles). Bielinski will debut additional chocolates in the coming weeks.
Pause Café has apparently been sold. The venerable coffee shop on Berwyn closed over the weekend and will reopen as Kitchen Sink Café (1107 w. Berwyn) in early December. The new owners, Jeff and Ally, are former Pause Cafe baristas and plan on keeping many of the things that made Pause a great spot, they will continue to serve Metropolis Coffee and offer free wifi for customers. Jeff and Ally plan on stepping up the food menu with gourmet sandwiches and panini, some breakfast items, fresh salads, hot soups and fruit smoothies. The shop its self will be getting a makeover, most of the décor was being sold off during a weekend garage sale, yet some items remain such as the old phone booth, e-mail if interested.
Oak Park residents no longer have to travel to Roscoe Village to get their Bleeding Heart fix. The "local, sustainable, punk pastry" bakery opened a new location in Downtown Oak Park at 1010 North Blvd in Oak Park. The store will offer cupcakes, scones, tarts, croissants, tea cakes, cake balls, parfaits, cookies and brownies, as well as coffee and tea. Check out their Flickr pictures from the opening here or follow the store's tweets.
Bleeding Heart Bakery-Oak Park
1010 North Blvd
Oak Park, IL
The latest North Avenue restaurant / lounge now has an "open" sign on the front door and a quick phone call confirmed that they are open for business (with what sounded like a good crowd for a Wednesday night). LOKaL's precise menu features soups, salads, and plates to share, many with an Eastern European flair. Flyers posted on the windows highlight jazz on Mondays and DJs spinning on Tuesdays, helping make the transition from evening restaurant to late-night lounge. With a minimalist menu to complement the sleek décor, LOKaL looks to be a uniquely flavored addition to the ever-growing Bucktown/Wicker Park food scene.
LOKaL is located at 1904 W. North Avenue and is open daily for lunch and dinner, as well as weekend brunch.
Not to be confused with the popular music review and news site, Pitchfork Food & Saloon opens this weekend, starting with an open house Thursday night from 6pm to 8pm. A drive past the restaurant last night confirmed that workers are scrambling to finish the space, but a peek in the windows revealed what you might expect from the owners of Waterhouse, Rebel and Blue Light: exposed brick, tall wooden chairs and lots of wood trim. Standard pub, with a pretty standard menu of burgers, wings and the like, but a fine addition to a neighborhood beginning to gentrify as young families move west from Lakeview.
But back to the name. Time Out's Julia Kramer was amused to find out the manager had never heard of Pitchfork the website, previously the biggest pitchfork in Chicago until they moved to New York. [Edit: Pitchfork's headquarters remain in Chicago; the New York branch is a second office.] This gained them derision from the likes of Idolator, but fortunately they're not alone: Alderman Dick Mell sent out an email announcing the restaurant's open house and sending folks to Pitchfork.com (the full email is posted after the jump.) PitchFork Saloon's website is, for the record PitchforkChicago.com.
The Lincoln Square Dutch pancake house, Pannenkoeken Café, has a new location now open in Wicker Park (2257 W. North Avenue). And what - pray tell - is pannenkoeken, you ask? It's a Dutch pancake, thinner than its American cousin, baked rather than fried, and includes some delicious toppings. My recent pick at the new Pannenkoeken location included raisins, apples, and havarti cheese.
Store hours at the Wicker Park spot are M-F, 7am-2pm; Sat. & Sun., 8am-2pm.
And I will say, my friend's reply to my invitation to join me on this tasty adventure was wholly accurate: those Dutch pancakes are huge!
Last spring one of Chicago's favorite culinary landmarks, Club Lago, was forced to close after a 50-foot chimney collapsed onto its building. Tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 7 the family-owned restaurant will host a grand re-opening party after being closed for six months.
The party will begin at 5 p.m., reservations are recommended.
331 W. Superior St.
Chicago, IL 60610
The Half Acre store is not a bar and will not serve food. We will sell our beer to-go and the beer & spirits of brewers and distillers we want to support. We will have six draft lines that will allow for sampling and the purchase of growlers (1/2 gallon jugs) to-go. We'll also have a soda that we've made on draft as much as time allows. You can buy our beer in 6packs, 22oz bottles, growlers, 1/2bbl kegs and 1/6th bbl kegs. We'll also sell Half Acre merchandise to outfit your entire neighborhood. Enjoying what we do very much and doing our best to continually offer new / different beer, we will have things available here that might not be available at other locations. Not everything we brew lands in bars, stores and restaurants - it's time consuming and expensive to develop visual identities and distribution paths. The store will allow us to share some of the things that usually don't make it out of the brewery. Basically, the store will grant us some flexibility to readily offer you Half Acre Beer in as many forms possible in the freshest state imaginable."
As a fan of Half Acre's Over Ale and Daisy Cutter, I am quite excited by this recent development. They will also begin to offer formal tours Fridays at 5pm and add Saturdays in the next few months.
Kids, sharpen up your Craigslist "Missed Connections" writing skills, 'cause Metromix is reporting that the dearly-missed coffee shop/neighborhood signifier Filter is reopening at 1373-75 N. Milwaukee in October. Possibly even more exciting: on-site roasting.
Passing up a very crowded Whistler earlier this week, I decided to try my luck at Cole's, Logan Square's newest bar. Open just a few weeks, Coleman Brice has transformed this former Milwaukee Avenue pool hall into a friendly neighborhood tavern. Cole's can't compete with the bells and whistles of some other Logan Square establishments, but what it lacks in professional interior design, it makes up for with an inviting neighborhood atmosphere.
A long bar runs through the front room where Cole serves six rotating draft beers, a wide selection of bottled beers (including the requisite $2 PBR), wine and cocktails. While the drink selection is good, including Metropolitan, North Coast and Two Brothers on tap, Cole isn't shy to admit his real motivation for the bar: Music. In the back room, a large stage will host local bands each night, free of charge. A Chicago-born musician himself, Cole aims to provide a venue for an eclectic mix of local performers. Tomorrow night - Saturday, August 8 at 9 p.m. - Cole's will host The Ultimate Boeing 747, Unique Chique and Ocelots & Others.
Cole can be contacted for bookings at coleschicago AT gmail DOT com. Send him a link to your Myspace page or other music samples and include three dates you would be interested in playing.
Starfruit, the frozen kefir cafe, is opening a second location in Lincoln Park on Thursday. The grand-opening will have a live DJ and activities for kids served along with the kefir smoothies and parfaits. And, on Thursday only, each kefir purchase comes with a free topping. For Chicago parents facing a day with bored kids at home waiting for their teachers to finish filling out report cards, a little face-painting and frozen-treat outing might soothe a lot of pre-report card angst. The cafe is at 2142 N Halsted Street.
A couple of months ago, I enjoyed one of the very best dining experiences of my life at City Provisions (check out the post), Chicago's green, locally-focused catering company and monthly supper club. At the dinner, I had the opportunity to speak with the owner/chef of the company, Cleetus Friedman, and he told me of his hopes to open an organic deli within the next five years. Little did he know that in just two months his plan to open a deli would be underway.
Smash Cake, the bakery named for a birthday cake meant for a one-year old to smash, had its grand-opening party on Saturday. The space has been open for about a month, offering cupcakes kids can decorate themselves, sandwiches, soup, coffee, tea and juice. As with sister store Bleeding Heart Bakery, everything is organic, and the store sells not only foodstuffs, but a lifestyle as well. At Smash Cake, there are homemade aprons covered with little skulls and crossbones for kids to wear as they decorate their cupcakes or take part in crafts activities. Similar aprons are available, in children's or grown-up sizes and fabrics, from designer Kerry Vitali. Her cards are displayed, as are the cards of other local designers and printers, along with sample party invitations, so you can plan and prepare for an indie kiddie party in one stop. Artwork is for sale as well. Currently one wall is covered with paintings by Derek Erdman, featuring bright images of neckties, ice-cream cones and school buses.
After a few days of setbacks, Titled Kilt at 17 N. Wabash, 2nd floor (visible from the Madison L platform), is scheduled to open today.
Though you might call it MacHooters, this Scottish-themed franchise based out of Las Vegas serves up pub grub brought to you by waitresses dressed in wee kilts. They have 24 beers on tap, 17 more in bottles, including their own recipe Amber Lager, which is brewed by Pyramid but is only available at the restaurant. I tried the lager at the NRA Show, and it's pretty enjoyable--nothing that's really out of the ordinary, but a nice switch from a macrobrew.
The menu is pretty standard bar fare, with an extensive list of sandwiches, wraps, salads, entrees, and the standard fish and chips and shepherd's pie.
When I last made it to New York City, I had a culinary check-off list of places I wanted to visit. My top priority was Magnolia Bakery, whose mention in Sex and the City (and later, Lazy Sunday) catapaulted the small storefront to fame. When I got to the building, I was melting from the summer heat; the last thing I really wanted to do was step inside, as the tiny bakery was packed with tourists waiting for staff to finish frosting more of Magnolia's picture-perfect cupcakes, but I had a goal. When I finally did taste the cupcake, I thought its huge roof of frosting had a nice butter- and vanilla-laden taste, but the actual cake was a dry, flavorless disappointment. As I threw the remainder into a garbage can, I quietly suspected that the cake had been baked several days (weeks?) before. Meh.
Shoddy cake has been to blame for a lot of my cupcake experiences. It seems like a lot of bakers put more of the heavy lifting into the frosting and little into the base--senseless, as this is a cupcake (not a cupfrosting, tee hee). But the cupcake itself has a lot to live up to--after all, it's a subset of a grander item that's the centerpiece of graduation parties and wedding receptions, and if portion control or the pretty daintiness of a cupcake is to be its calling card, it better be a worthy representative.
The first birthday cake, or "smash cake," is the inspiration (obviously) behind Smash Cake, the latest business in the Bleeding Heart Bakery's growing empire. Located at 2961 N. Lincoln, it's a place designed for weekday kids birthday parties -- as well as a kid-friendly rest stop for parents, with coffee and lunch items in addition to the baked goods. Smash Cake opened last week, and starting today you can custom decorate your own cupcake for just $4. Open 7am to 7pm Monday through Friday.
Green City Market moves outside to Lincoln Park (1750 N. Clark) on Wednesday, May 6, with a rally and 2009 season kick-off on Saturday, May 9. Green City will continue in the park Wednesdays and Saturdays (except July 4) from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Until then, Green City continues in their winter home at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 18 and Saturday, April 25. Alice Waters visits the market on the 25th for a book signing of her book, The Edible Schoolyard, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Formerly the 27th Ward's local Chicago Public Library branch, and even more recently closed and vacant for ages, Branch 27 has brought new life to the corner of Chicago and Nobel with a buzzing contemporary American restaurant in a lovely typographically inflected space. The latest from what seems to be a fathomless pool of Rockit and Empire Liquors alumni, Branch 27 feels a bit more mature than some of its cousin establishments, and brings a new sense of balance to the ever-expanding Chicago Avenue dining scene. And you can be sure no one will shush you in the building's newest incarnation -- the prevailing mood seems to be celebratory and the place will be crowded, if this past weekend is any indication.
More thoughts on an opening week meal after the jump...
Fuel, opening officially this Wednesday in the old Blend space on Division, is sleek and pretty, but like a teenager sneaking a joy ride with daddy's vintage wheels, doesn't seem entirely sure where it wants to go. Pulling a double-shift as a coffee shop by day, loungey bar by night, Fuel seems to be trying to be all things to all people who might be strolling through east Wicker Park. High-gloss molded plastic tables and chairs evoke a kind of 50's car hop feel, as do the converted gas pumps showing off the liquid goods, while plasma screens and a DJ booth are as contemporary as the baffling but still unchecked upscale sports bar trend. (Hub 51, I'm looking at you.) An online menu promises such luxe libations as an Apple Cucumber mojito and Lavazza espresso infused cocktail, though no drink list was available or even mentioned when I visited. No beers are on tap, and $5 or more for a beer always makes me cringe when Gold Star or Rainbo are but a hop, skip and a sip away.
While I always appreciate a bar with a food menu, the eats at Fuel seemed only half baked. Unremarkable but nicely sized fried chicken sliders come three to a plate, an awkward number to share, served with a single slice of tomato, leaf of lettuce, pickle slice and dab of coleslaw on the side. Guacamole is remarkably flavorful, studded with tomato and jalepenos, but served with the most bland and industrial tortilla chips I've seen since my central Wisconsin school lunch nachos. Crispy crab wontons boast a creative filling favoring vegetables and crab to cream cheese, with a bright lime note against the sweet and saltiness. But an unbalanced sticky-sweet chili sauce and undercooked dough make for an uninspiring appetizer overall.
In the end, the unadventurous food didn't much live up to the sleeker surroundings, expect perhaps in its unevenness. Fuel is new, and I remain optimistic about all coffee-shop openings in the neighborhood -- particularly those that can spike their espresso with other bar offerings. But as it is, Fuel seems like it could use a better-focused and thought out tune-up to really make it.
Did you know Hop Haus was opening a second location? Neither did we, until I drove past Clark and Howard this morning and spotted workers putting the finishing touches on the signage at 7545 N. Clark St. The new restaurant opens at 4pm today.
The storefront was previously occupied by Amphora, a Greek/Mediterranean joint; African Harambee still occupies the space next door. Both spaces were once part of the sprawling Gateway Bar & Grill, a favorite hangout of Rogers Park's actors and artists -- it featured murals by the late Ed Paschke.
A manager was not available to comment today, but we can assume that Hop Haus' wide range of microbrews and gourmet burgers will be available at the new location. More details to come.
UPDATE: I stopped by the new Hop Haus tonight for a post-work drink with Chicagoist's Chuck Sudo -- and we inadvertently ended up the restaurants first official customers. The restaurant is quite fresh and clean -- just as you'd expect from Leona's restaurant group's bar and grill concept. A large mural of sports celebs greets you as you enter the bar area, with booths and tables beyond.
The menu is identical to the original Hop Haus; one new addition (available in both restaurants) is the "Egg Burger," which as the name suggests has a fried egg on top, along with Canadian bacon, tomato and romaine lettuce. It's a good iteration of the trend, though the flavor of the Canadian bacon was a little bit lost among the other toppings and half pound patty.
While we enjoyed our burgers and beers at the bar, a young couple came in and asked whether the restaurant was open. They were on their way home and saw the sign -- and were excited to have such a hip restaurant in the far reaches of Rogers Park. Says a lot.
Apparently now cupcakes are being replaced by whoopie pies as the queen of traditional-baked-goods-elevated-to-glamorous-gourmet-food-dom, but cupcakes are still a lot of fun, and more bakeries have been opening up around that cupcake fun. We recently visited a newish one, Le Sucre Cakes and Cupcakes, in Niles.
The store is on Waukegan, just outside of the mall that holds the Korean megamart, H Mart. The owners are a young Asian couple, with the friendly husband manning the cashier and the polite, smiling wife baking in the back (which you can kind of see through the glass window). I wouldn't call their cupcakes "innovative" in the sense of More, which has crazy (but delicious) things like BLT and chocolate-champaign cupcakes. Le Sucre's are more traditional, aiming for tried-and-true comfort like dark chocolate mocha and straightforward vanilla. As it was about 5 minutes before closing time, the owner threw in two extras to our chosen two, so we got to try four (yay!).
I got a jump on the rest of the city on Thursday, when Gapers Block hosted a "staff-tivity" at the brewery in Ravenswood. We got to sample two of Metropolitan Brewing's delicious beers, the Dynamo Copper Lager and Flywheel Bright Lager, while noshing on sandwiches and fries complements of Hopleaf. I loved the Dynamo, a beautifully balanced beer with a crisp finish -- very drinkable. The Flywheel is a bit sweeter up front, but still has a smooth, dry finish befitting a German lager.
Entertainment was on point: to help celebrate Metropolitan's kick-off, the Neo-Futurists are using the brewery as a stage for the aptly-named "Beer," running Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between Jan. 31 and March 7. We got a sneak peek at the show, which tells the story of 10-year-old Boon, who passes out drunk after drinking his stepfather's crappy beer, and awakens to find himself and his puppet buddy, Puke, in a mysterious brewery. To get home, they must learn how to brew delicious beer. It's a great idea -- the Wizard of Oz meets Willy Wonka, for beer-lovers -- made that much better by staging it at a real brewery.
So, to recap, here's an idea for a fun night out next Thursday: check out "Beer," and then go drink some (of Metropolitan's) at one of the lucky bars featuring Chicago's newest brew.
Wiki Wiki Market opened a few days ago in the storefront aside Skewerz, just to the right of the Damen/Milwaukee Blue Line station's entrance. The tiny but bright and welcoming space is filled with fresh produce, including hot chilies, marinara and soup made in their back kitchen, soy milk, and dry groceries like pasta. This a welcome addition to the papered-up windows that had previously owned this space for so long. 1562 N. Damen. El: Blue to Damen/Milwaukee. Bus: 50 Damen, 56 Milwaukee, 72 North.
Cru Cafe & Wine Bar is closing its doors next Saturday, Jan. 24, due to the "economic climate," according to owner Debbie Sharpe. If you're in the market for higher-end wines, the cafe will be selling off some of their better bottles this week.
The space will be closed for three weeks for renovations and re-open as a Feast Restaurant + Bar, to complement The Goddess and Grocer next door. A new chef will be announced on Monday.
In related news, Feast Restaurant + Bar and The Goddess and Grocer are expanding to Lincoln Square at 4743 N. Lincoln Ave., right near the fountain at Giddings Plaza. Both are expected to open sometime around June. Feast will seat 120 people indoors, with sidewalk seating for 80 in good weather.
An inside source tells us that Orange on Harrison, which announced it was closing back in September and then never did, really will be closing after Sunday's brunch service. The owners plan to open a new Orange outpost near Fullerton and Clark in March.
New Wave Coffee has opened at the corner of Logan and Milwaukee, and offers Metropolis Coffee and free Wi-Fi (they'll also be serving food soon). New Wave is housed in a building that is close to the site of the Logan Square Farmers Market, which will make it an even nicer destination when the weather heats up. Welcome to the neighborhood, we're glad to see you.
New Wave Coffee
3103 W Logan / 2557 N Milwaukee
Open 7a-11p daily
Vella Cafe has been serving up a wonderful breakfast, brunch and lunch. And now they'll be doing dinner, three nights a week, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays until 9 p.m., starting Wednesday, Nov. 12. These evenings you'll find pizza, salads, soups and mac n' cheese, including a vegan pizza with mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes and spinach. (Photo is from Vella's breakfast menu, Spicy Tofu Scramble: soy chorizo, roasted poblanos, brown rice, zucchini, corn, scallions, avocado, lime, tomatillo salsa, tortillas).
BYOB: Vella has teamed up with Nathan & Sean from Red & White Wines (1861 N. Milwaukee). Call from your seat at Vella and the wine shop will deliver. Vella also will deliver dinner time pizzas to you at the Green Eye Lounge next door. Vella is at 1912 N. Western Ave., under the Blue Line tracks. El: Blue Line to Western. Bus: 49 Western, 56 MIlwaukee, 73 Armitage.
Starting this Saturday, November 1, Green City Market moves from their warm-weather Lincoln Park spot to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, every Wednesday and Saturday in November and December from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. New this year, Green City will continue through the winter, from January through April on the first and third Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. 2430 N. Cannon Drive. Bus: 151 Sheridan, 156 LaSalle (weekdays only), 76 Diversey.
The death of Orange on Harrison continues to be delayed, but according to sources close to the restaurant, the owners plan to open a new outpost near Clark and Fullerton. To timeline for that yet.
Meanwhile, Rockit Ranch Productions is hiring for a "new Asian" concept called Sunda. They hope to open in January near Clark and Illinois. Across the street from Rockit Bar & Grill, something called Theory Sport.Dine.Lounge has begun renovating the old Kevin space; from the name, I think it's safe to say it'll be an upscale sports bar and grill.
Chicago Public Radio's Chicago Matters: Going Forward covers how the National School Lunch Program decides what Chicago Public School students eat for lunch, and how CPS is trying to make lunches healthier and from local growers tomorrow at 7:20 a.m. on Morning Edition and between 9 and 10 a.m. on Eight Forty-Eight.
Meanwhile, Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs brings Chicago's Downtown Farmstand to 66 E. Randolph with fruits, vegetables, preserves and baked goods from within 250 miles of the city. The pilot Farmstand will offer educational programs and lunchtime demonstrations on Wednesdays and Fridays. The Farmstand opens October 1, with a Grand Opening celebration featuring samples and demos from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Afterwards, the Farmstand operates Tuesday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through mid-December, and re-opening in Spring 2009.
Today is the grand opening of Counter Burger, a create-your-own burger joint (part of a California-based chain) on Diversey Parkway in Lincoln Park. Diners get to choose their protein (beef, turkey, chicken and veggie patties), then pile on toppings, cheese, sauce and a bun--or for carbophobes, no bun. Company lore says these choices add up to 312,120+ different options. And, unlike lots of other casual-dining chains, Counter Burger has a full bar.
Of course, plenty of burger options (beef, chicken, turkey, veggie and fish, even) have been on offer just down the street at Dukes. This friendly, loungey space shouldn't be overlooked; the burgers are actually a few dollars cheaper at Dukes. But only Counter Burger has been mentioned on Oprah.
Counter Burger, 666 W. Diversey Pkwy
Dukes, 2616 N. Clark St.
Wicker Park falafelists Sultan's Market is planning to open a second third location close to the California Blue Line station at Milwaukee next year called Masada. Hold on to your hat, Logan Bar and Grill!
The newest venture from Michelle Garcia, organic bakery maven and general punk-rock princess, glams up cakes, tortes and other confections for West Lakeview. Chaos Theory Cakes, which threw its grand opening party last weekend, is much in the same vein as its cousin shop, the Bleeding Heart Bakery -- sweets served up with a goth circus flair. As the more grown-up face to the growing Garcia empire, Chaos Theory's cakes feature ingredients as diverse as onions, peppercorns and avocados, as well as more standard Oaxacan chocolate, blueberries, and fluffy whipped cream. Not all in the same recipe, though it probably wouldn't be that much of a stretch. More below the fold.
Five flavors of Temptation vegan ice cream are on sale on the sidewalk of Wabash Avenue in the Loop: Chocolate, mint chocolate chip, strawberry, vanilla, and my favorite cookie dough. You'll get a generous scoop in a cone or bowl for $2. It's rich, smooth, and most importantly cold. I stood outside eating mine while waiting for a friend, gazing north at the rising Trump Tower construction, with the antique and wooden Adams Street El station in the distant foreground. Ice cream is available summer weekdays between about noon and 3 p.m., when it's not raining, outside Kramer's health food store at 230 S. Wabash Ave.
Devon Avenue's Sher-A-Punjab Indian Restaurant has put a buffet in the Loop, onto a comfortable second floor of the 7-Eleven on Washington and Wells with a close-up view of the end of the Washington Elevated platform. Get fluffy naan and eggplant with peas in a thick and rich tomato sauce. Golden potato and pea samosas were nicely crispy and filling, with seconds being eagerly brought to our table with the $10.99 combo, which included a soda in a 7-Eleven Gulp cup (otherwise, $6.99 a pound). There's also rice with peas and carrots and some non-veg options. Service was quite enthusiastic both to explain what was what, and to ask us to bring in our friends. Washington and Wells, southwest corner, inside the 7-11 and up to the second floor.
Mado, in the old Barcello space at 1647 N. Milwaukee, has been open for just three weeks and is getting largely solid reviews, likely helped by owners Rob and Allison Levitt's proven track record at del Toro and others. And possibly also by this peek behind the kitchen curtain.
Mexique at 1529 W. Chicago Avenue hopes to bring chef Carlos Gaytan's Mex-French flair to West Town this month with its made-to-order tacos, fancy tamales, and a full bar to go with brunch. Every day more and more butcher paper comes down off the windows...it's only a matter of time.
After honing his upscale skills at Charlie Trotter's, Trio and Le Lan, chef Bill Kim is opening Urban Belly at 3053 N. California Avenue in Logan Square sometime in June. A family affair that will focus on noodles and dumplings, Urban Belly may also soon be the Northwest side's answer for weekend dim sum. We can only hope.
Dadaist art gets a nod from newcomer Duchamp, also opening in June, from a team taken from Lumen and Zealous. Taking up residence in the old Meritage space at 2118 N. Damen, Duchamp will feature French and Mediterranean-inspired New American plates with a neighborhoody casual-feel. And, egads, more brunch!
Texas de Brazil, a family-owned, Texas-based Churrascaria, is set to open mid to late May on the Magnificent Mile. Gapers Block had a sneak peak of the restaurant, which is still under construction. The two-story, 24,000 square foot space is impressive; the restaurant will house a high-end liquor room, cigar humidor, luxury bar and lounge, and seven private rooms.
Welcome to the meat eater's paradise; 15 grilled meats will be served table side by gaucho-clad servers. An elaborate salad bar will offer over forty items. We sampled TdB's signature cocktail, the Caipirinha, which was deliciously shaken with Brazilian Cachaca, a sugar cane rum.
How will this spot compete with Chicago's established Brazilian steakhouses? Three words: Aerial Wine Artist. Texas de Brazil plans to unveil a two-story, glass wine room that will hold over 700 bottles of wine. A pulley system, installed by Chicago Flyhouse, will allow the aerial artist to "gracefully retrieve bottles, Cirque du Soleil style, as diners watch through the glass doors."
Dinner: $47.99, Lunch: $27.99.
Texas de Brazil
51 E. Ohio St.
Opening Mid to Late May 2008
Olo, coming soon to West Randolph Street, will feature rustic, Mediterranean cooking. Chef Sean Eastwood, lauded for his work at Isabelle's Estiatorio in Geneva, promises to feature much of the same cuisine that made Isabelle's such a success. 1152 W. Randolph St.
We told you several weeks ago that Big Jones Chicago would soon be opening up in the old Augie's space on Clark St. in Andersonville. As of Wednesday, they're officially open for real. Tonight they're hosting a fundraiser for eco-Andersonville, a green initiative run by http://www.andersonvilledevcorp.org/ Andersonville Development Corporation, and $50 gets you a sampling of their menu, cocktails, wine, a preview of the restaraunt, and the knowledge that you're making a neighborhood better.
And I have to commend Big Jones for really understanding the internet. Seriously, folks. I've looked at a lot of restaraunt websites, and frankly most of them suck. But these people get it. You can reserve a table online through them (instead of having to go through Open Table). They have a map, their full menu (that thankfully doesn't involve music or downloading a pdf). And they even have a blog. They're not even open and they have more information on their website than most established restaurants. Oh! and they have tea service! With red velvet cake! Lord have mercy upon my waistband.
Cinner's Chili Parlour & Cocktail Lounge opened last weekend! This long awaited neighborhood spot specializes in Cincinnati Style Chili. Cincinnati chili is saucier than typical Texas chili and is served over spaghetti or coney-style. Beans are cooked separately from the sauce and are used as an addition to the plate. Cinci-style is for the chili sophisticate; interesting spices like cinnamon, allspice, cocoa and Worcestershire create a one-in-a-kind taste.
Cinner's offers 3, 4, and 5-way Chili, plus a variety of other cheesy, meaty concoctions. Meatless options are graciously included on the menu, and cocktails are named for some of Cincinnati's main attractions. The "Over the Rhine," made with rum, gin, and watermelon vodka, sounds like a must try.
Cinner's Chili Parlour & Cocktail Lounge
4757 N. Talman Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625
Following the very emotional closing of the Hyde Park Co-op Market earlier this year, an outlet of the Treasure Island grocery store chain will be opening in the Co-op's former location at 1526 East 55th Street this upcoming Wednesday.
Opened about three weeks ago, one block off the North, Damen and Milwaukee intersection, W Crossings (2045 W. North Ave.) is a hybrid of liquor store and natural food conscious mini-mart. You'll find liquor, wine, and beer, including a few of Goose Island's reserve brews. With bananas, apples, oranges, cantaloupe and pineapple, they are no match for the produce selection at nearby specialty grocer and wine/beer shop Olivia's Market (2014 W. Wabansia Ave.), but I hear vegetables like spinach, onions, and tomatoes will be arriving soon. W Crossings has many quick pick offerings, including Amy's frozen pizzas, natural peanut butter, natural cereals, vegan cookies, soy milk and canned soups. Open until midnight weekdays, and 1 a.m. weekends.
Other immediately nearby small business grocery options include the 24-hour Wicker Park Food Mart (1571 N. Milwaukee Ave.) for typical convenience items, granola, cookies, crackers, nuts, raisins, juice, soy milk and dried beans. Goddess and Grocer (1646 N. Damen Ave.) offers an ample wine selection, plus plenty of specialty foods to go with. Crespos (2157 W. North Ave.) sells beer, wine, liquor, and the occasional food item. The Wicker Park Blue Line concession stand reliably sells bananas and small snacks and drinks. Evergreen Pantry (1339 N. Damen Ave.) offers more convenience items.
An all vegan fast food restaurant on the South Side (Mount Greenwood neighborhood) that's known for its vegan takes on gyros, Italian beef, buffalo wings, chili cheese fries and dogs, will soon open its much anticipated North Side location in Wicker Park, at 1300 N. Milwaukee. I rode my bicycle past Veggie Bite's soon-to-be second location yesterday morning, their name and logo prominently and repeatedly displayed in papered windows. (I had long wondered if they would take the iconic one-story building left by Burger King's departure ages ago, on the corner of Milwaukee and Honore, a block south of North and Damen.) Columbia College's Chronicle talks about the restaurant, the differing reactions to its original location, and how they're going for a mainstream eco-friendly appeal with their new Wicker Park address.
Meanwhile, Chicago-area Chicago Soydairy wants you to buy a slice of the vegan pizza that has their new vegan cheese, from the Whole Foods in Lake View at 3640 N. Halsted. Their main product, Temptation Vegan Ice Cream, seems to hold a solid reputation as the vegan ice cream served at several area restaurants, and according to Soydairy, the new cheese melts and tastes great.
• After being closed for a month due to the Montrose Hole, Scot's reopens tonight. Nice write-up on the TOC blog of a benefit for the bar's employees.
• Lalibela, an Ethiopean restaurant at 5631 N. Ashland Ave., opened this past week. Reviews on Yelp so far are positive.
• Further south in Andersonville, Dish reports that pizzeria-grocery Great Lake, 1477 W. Balmoral (next to La Tache), opened Wednesday.
• Also via Dish, Tallulah, an American bistro in the former She She space, 4539 N. Lincoln Ave., has opened ahead of schedule last weekend.
• Union Pizzeria, 1245 Chicago Ave. in Evanston, opened last week. It's owned by Campagnola's Steve Schwartz, so expect gourmet pizzas, small plates and seasonal ingredients. Here's an early review on LTH Forum.
• Aberdeen,1856 W. North Ave., aims to open March 8 in the former Celebrity space.
• Further north on Western, "Kan Pou: Cooking and Baking with spices in the Thai style" says the sign on the former El Palmar space, 4256 N. Western. No word on the opening.
• Yet a little further north, the former Thai Nippon space, 4825-B N. Western, is papered over, and a hand-drawn sign on the door says "Snow Spice Thai" is coming soon.
• Lincoln Park pizza and pasta joint O'Famé's new Lincoln Square/St. Ben's location, 4159 N. Western, looks nearly open -- the paper is literally peeling off the windows -- but a call to the original turned up no answers. Could be weeks, could be months.
A-ville Daily tips us to the opening of La Cocina de Frida, featuring "made-from-scratch Mexican food and family recipe cooking," in the space previously occupied by Angel's, 5403 N. Clark. The menu promises fresh guacamole, made-daily tamales and empanadas, pollo en mole negro Oaxaca and other authentic Mexican dishes inspired by Friday Kahlo.
• Sweet Occasions opens its third location, on Bryn Mawr at Kenmore, next Tuesday, Jan. 15. Three more locations, in Roscoe Village, Boystown and Lincoln Park, are planned for later in '08.
• The owners of Think Cafe recently began construction on a new restaurant, to be called Knew, in Wicker Park. No opening date set yet.
• At Wilson and Ravenswood in underserved Ravenswood, O'Shaughnessey's is nearing completion; looks to be a couple months from opening. From the external signage, it'll be a standard model Irish pub, unless they're serious about being "tea merchants" and "whiskey blenders."
• Metromix reports that a new beer garden is growing in East Ukrainian Village. The Old Oak Tap is aiming for a September opening.
• Pollo Campero will open its third Chicago location on a western stretch of North Avenue in the coming months.
• Eno, the wine room chain with an outpost in the Hotel Intercontinental, is opening another branch in the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel; look for it to pop up in May.
• The beloved, belated Tiny Lounge (formerly under the Addison Brown Line stop) is soon to reopen in the former Charlie's on Leavitt space at Leavitt/Lincoln/Montrose. Let's hope for a quick build-out and open.