Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Big Payback?! Chefs, Servers, Bartenders, Others Get Revenge in the 'Review Revue'


What a brilliant way for industry folks to get back at those who've scorned them in the media or on sites like Yelp.

Local bartenders Brian Bolles and Sophie Burton have collaborated on a series called the Review Revue in which their colleagues come out to read the most scathing writeups they can find on the internet.

Chefs, servers, bartenders and restaurateurs are encouraged to read them slam poetry style, for the audience's amusement. The third edition goes down at 9:30pm Feb. 17 at Bar DeVille.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lite Bites: What Your Favorite Chefs & Mixologists Are Up To Around Town This Week

Brian Enyart (second from left) with Paul Virant (far left), Rick Bayless and Paul Kahan. (Photo: Enyart's Facebook)

Movers shaking sh*t up.

• For a guy with his pedigree, Brian Enyart keeps a pretty low profile. Since leaving the top post at Rick Bayless's Topolobampo in 2011, he's been out of the spotlight, but busy as hell. He worked on 17 projects for Lettuce Entertain You, which included the openings of Do-Rite Donuts, Paris Club and RPM Italian. Currently he's consulting once a month for a week in Los Angeles on various restaurant projects. What's really awesome is that the Michelin-starred chef is also sharing his culinary skills with the public by serving as a part-time instructor at The Chopping Block. Think about how lucky you will be if you pick up even a sliver of what he can do!

Alinea's Grant Achatz is live tweeting from Lyons, France during the prestigious Bocuse d'Or. On his team (Team USA!) are culinary stalwarts Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud.

Anthony Bourdain is set to be the main attraction at the annual National Restaurant Association Show in May.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

You're Going To Have To Wait A Little Bit Longer For Three Dots and a Dash's Debut

Paul McGee photo via This Is A Cocktail Blog

While the Melman-produced Bub City has been churning along nicely for about a month, fans of the lower-level, high-concept tiki lounge Three Dots and a Dash are going to have to wait just a little bit longer.

The Paul McGee project has had a few setbacks, including suffering a bit from a fire a few weeks back at Dragon Ranch (which is still closed by the way).

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Collection Of Tasty Bites For Super Bowl

Art Smith photo courtesy of Abe's Market/Tim Hiatt

I never believed for one second that there was going to be a shortage of chicken wings during the Super Bowl.

But even though the rumor's been put to rest, it should serve as a wake-up call that we need to step outside our comfort zone when it comes to game day dishes.

Of course that's a pretty tall order to expect you to create some unique bites for your guests, so we consulted with some local experts to help you in that department.

From Art Smith's tasty turkey chili nachos to a new spin on Oysters Rockefeller, here are some trophy-worthy treats certain to please everyone. We've even included a couple of potent punches!

Grace Restaurant Hosts A Star-Studded 'Chef Social'

Grace chef Curtis Duffy hanging with EL Ideas chef Phillip Foss. (Photo via GrubStreet Chicago/Huge Galdones Photography)

There was a party Sunday night at Grace.

But this wasn't just any party. it was the Chef Social for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's annual Grand Chefs Gala. The Jean Banchet awards, which honors local culinary stars, are a big part of the black-tie event. The Chef Social is when the industry elite gets together and casts votes in categories such as Chef of the Year, Pastry Chef of the Year, Best New Restaurant and Best Mixologist.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Michael McDonald Landed at Gold Coast Hot Spot Luxbar--Eight Months Ago

Photo via Time Out Chicago

The mad talented Michael McDonald—the chef, not the singer—was ousted from one sixty blue a year ago as it made its transition to belly Q. We hadn't heard from him since until Thursday when we ran into him at Luxbar.

McDonald tells 312DD that he's been the popular Gold Coast restaurant's executive chef for about eight months, but he wanted to play it low key and work on the menus behind the scenes.

Luxbar, which is owned by the group behind Gibsons, Hugo's Frog Bar, Quartino and RL, is quite the transition for the classically trained, fine-dining chef whose resume boasts high-profile positions at Everest, Restaurant Charlie Trotter (Las Vegas), a couple of Four Seasons properties, and Nobu at the Shore Club Hotel in Miami.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lite Bites: What Your Favorite Chefs & Mixologists Are Up To Around Town This Week


Don't let the cold weather slow you down . . .

• One way to fight off the chill is to attend Red Door's fundraiser featuring the city's coolest chefs in a chili cook-off. The event benefits the Chicken Freedom Project, an initiative by Slagel Family Farms to purchase and convert an existing five-acre commercial, caged chicken and egg facility into a cage-free, old-fashioned farm operation in Central Illinois. Participating chefs include Red Door's Troy Graves, plus John Manion (La Sirena Clandestina), Eric Mansavage (Farmhouse), Enoch Simpson (endgrain), Mark Steuer (Carriage House) and Matt Troost (Three Aces). Tickets are $25, includes food and one Olmeca Altos cocktail, and may be purchased here. 6pm Jan. 28 and Yours Truly is the Special Guest Judge.

• A bunch of Chicago bartenders are going to Occupy NYC this weekend in what they're calling 24 Bartenders, 24 Hours. Their sked is absolutely hectic with a boozy brunch, Skeeball tournament, tattoo sessions, karaoke and more. There's a charity attached to the madness; they're raising $$$ for the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation. In on the fun are organizers Daniel de Oliveira (Olmeca Altos) and Sergio Serna (The Drawing Room), plus Charles Joly (The Aviary), Josh Pearson (Sepia), Mea Leech (belly Q) and Paul Sauter (Double A). I guess it's going to be pretty difficult getting a drink around town Sunday night!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

First-Ever Bang Bang Pie Shop Baking Class Sells Out In Less Than 20 Minutes

Bang Bang Pie Shop's Lavender Coconut Cream Pie. (Photo via

I take it that folks really like pie because when Logan Square's Bang Bang Pie Shop announced Tuesday on Twitter that tickets were on sale for its first-ever hands-on pie class, they were gone before you could blink. The event is $60 and happens at 7pm Feb. 4.

Here's what you will miss out on:

Former Mercadito, Trenchermen 'Tender Sets Up Shop At Upcoming Takito Kitchen In Wicker Park

Adam Weber of the forthcoming Takito Kitchen. (Photos: Takito Kitchen)

More modern tacos come to Wicker Park to compete with stalwarts Big Star and Antique Taco with the arrival of Takito Kitchen in March.

In addition to these tacos (they're keeping the magic under wraps for now), the owners plan to unveil a serious mixology program with Adam Weber behind the stick. He previously worked at Mercadito and Trenchermen.

Here's an exclusive, first look at some of Weber's innovative new cocktails:

Look Out For Big Changes On Frog N Snail's Menu

Frog N Snail's interior (Photo: Frog N Snail)

If you're going to make major changes to the menu, now is the time to do it—in the dead of winter.

At Frog N Snail, Top Chef alum Dale Levitski (he also owns Sprout in Lincoln Park) is putting the finishing touches on a brand-new dinner menu that debuts this weekend.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Sneak Peek Of Siena Tavern, Plus Another Celebrity Collaboration In The Works?!

(Photo: Lucas Stoioff)

Siena Tavern combines the talents of culinary Italian Stallion Fabio Viviani (Top Chef) and the duo behind Bull & Bear and Public House.

We've been told to expect rustic Italian fare and decor mixed in with contemporary fixins', but Siena partner Lucas Stoioff posted the photo above on Facebook, showcasing what you'll see when the restaurant opens in River North on Feb. 15.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Coco Pazzo Team To Open Roman Trattoria and Pizzeria in Streeterville This Spring


From the mailbag:

"There has been a lot of activity at 212 East Ohio in preparation for the opening of Jack Weiss’s new restaurant this spring. Weiss, owner of Coco Pazzo and Coco Pazzo Café, is busy readying the space for a completely different Italian eatery than his long standing Tuscan restaurants. The warm and intimate space will seat approximately 100 people and be home to a Roman trattoria and pizzeria featuring dishes from the Lazio region of Italy."

So exciting and Roman Trattoria and Pizzeria's pretty close to Coco Pazzo Cafe!

Lite Bites: What Your Favorite Chefs & Mixologists Are Up To Around Town This Week

Michael Carlson photo via the Chicago Tribune

Hot shots on the move . . .

• A number of top-notch toques are getting together to help raise funds for a learning garden for Cesar E. Chávez Multicultural Academic Center on the South Side. The likes of Michael Carlson (Schwa), Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia) and Cary Taylor (The Southern) are whipping up the vittles and Chris Gerber, general manager of The Aviary, is hosting. The event takes place 6-9pm Jan. 28 at Cesar school (4747 S. Marshfield Ave.). Suggested donation is $75 and may be purchased by emailing Aaron McKay. Your ticket includes non-alcoholic beverages from Rare Tea Cellar, Peace Tree Brewery and European Imports.

• Get ready to squeal. The entire chef lineup for Baconfest has been revealed.

• Here's iNG/Moto chef Homaro Cantu on Good Morning America plugging his miracle berry diet.

• This is exciting news for the home cook. According to Time Out Chicago, you can now take home sauces created by the chefs of Girl & the Goat, Big Star and Pecking Order.

The Gage Executive Chef Dirk Flanigan has resigned to work on his own project.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sushi Dokku—From Former Sushi Wabi Owners—Is Now Open For Business


Got a tip that Sushi Dokku opened for friends and family Monday evening.

I called, and sure enough the hostess who answered the phone invited me to "come on in" to check it out even though the restaurant wasn't officially opening until Jan. 15.

Sushi Dokku's arrival is exciting because it's from Susan Thompson and Angela Hepler-Lee—two-thirds of the former owners of the now-shuttered Sushi Wabi. If you remember, there was a ton of drama surrounding that closing.

Anyway, the new restaurant is directly across the street from the old venue, and regulars of Sushi Wabi should be happy to see some of the old menu standbys. New to the menu are what they're calling "dressed nigiri bites," which will be accompanied by garnishes and sauces. Expect also typical maki rolls, hot and cold Japanese dishes, and a small ramen menu.

Here are some photos of Sushi Dokku's menus. Yeah, you're going to have to squint a bit!

Everyone Wants A Piece Of The Great Lake Pie!


From a reader:

"I live around the corner from Great Lake and ever since the word got out they were not resigning their lease—the line has been insane. This was at 5pm this past Sat. night, it wrapped around all the way to the alley!"

A Super Dog for the Big Game and Other Unique Chicago Spots for Football Fans

Public House's signature mini Kobe corn dogs. (Photo: Public House)

We still have no idea which teams will square off in the Super Bowl when it kicks off at 4pm on Feb. 3, but at least there's Beyoncé. She's certain to rock out at the 50-yard line.

You can be a star on Super Bowl Sunday too—if you whip up the best snacks for your guests during your fantastic fete on football's biggest day. Public House Executive Chef David Blonsky's gives us the recipe for his mini Kobe corn dogs, which should certainly make your case for MVP.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Is Sodikoff Restaurant Group's New Deli Going Into The Just-Shuttered Steve's Deli Space?!

Photo: Steve's Deli

Steve's Deli has an outgoing message on its answering machine that it would only be closed the weeks of Christmas and New Year's. It still hasn't opened and direct calls to the owner have resulted in disconnected numbers (I've been told by an Ultimate Insider that he moved back to his permanent home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where the original Steve's Deli is located.).

In related news, Sodikoff Restaurant Group (Au Cheval, Bavette's, Gilt Bar, Maude's Liquor Bar) is working on opening Dillman's, a Jewish deli in River North.

People Lounge To Close, Plus Other Shockers

People Lounge interior via

The week kicked off with the news of Great Lake abandoning its Andersonville digs and Michael Simon leaving his high-profile bartending position at Carriage House. There's so much more:

• According to Eater Chicago, People Tapas Lounge is closing on Jan. 20. No word on why it's leaving, but the owners are also behind Division Ale House, which is also in Wicker Park.

• The guys behind Rockit Ranch Productions have unveiled their latest project, which is going into the old Martini Ranch space. GrubStreet's assessment was pretty restrained. For me, Ay Chiwowa's Mexican theme feels like it's going to be more like a combination of Taco Bell and Tavernita's Barcito (mostly because of the similar dog mascot). Even one of RRP's biggest fans was disappointed about the name, and added that she expected a "Latin lounge with a whimsical twist, perhaps. Fun, festive yet sophisticated. South-of-the-border Sunda?"

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lakeview's Wood Restaurant Gets Big, Um, Honors From Popular Gay Hookup Site Grindr

The interior of Wood restaurant. (Photo: Wood)

Grindr describes itself as "discreet" and "a simple app that uses your mobile device's location-based services to show you the guys closest to you who are also on Grindr." That pretty much sums it up as a hookup tool.

It's been around since 2009, but this year they've decided to hold the first-ever Grindr's Best of 2012 Awards, and a few of Chicago's shining stars made the cut.

Lite Bites: What Your Favorite Chefs & Mixologists Are Up To Around Town This Week

Andrew Brochu (Photo via

Welcome back to the first full week of the New Year!

• The return of Andrew Brochu?! The former Graham Elliot, EL Ideas chef has a new project that is apparently starting this weekend in Wicker Park, according to Chicagoist. The Monarch takes over the space formerly occupied by Uberstein.

Chicago Originals Week returns at the end of the month. Get ready for two- three- or four-course tastings that showcase chefs' menus at the likes of Kiki's Bistro, Mexique and Oceanique. It happens Jan. 24-Feb. 3 with special deals priced at $29.13.

City Winery chef Andres Barrera finally revamps the menu that's been slammed by every critic in town.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Food & Wine 'Bestows' Top Honor, Then Takes It Away From Local Sommelier

Photo of Jason Wagner via Facebook.

According to Jason Wagner—who recently left RM Champagne Salon to take over the vacant somm position at The Gage/HenriFood & Wine had named him one of the "Top Sommeliers of 2012." The announcement was set to happen in an upcoming edition.

The sudden job switch, however, likely created some confusion at the magazine, which probably was going to feature a glowing write-up about the Jason Wagner experience at RM Champagne Salon. The writer didn't have this experience at The Gage or Henri. I'm thinking that a fact-checker called up Wagner to verify some info and that's when he told him he left.

When Wagner was informed that the story was pulled, he griped about the situation on Facebook late Monday night:

Monday, January 7, 2013

Is Green Dolphin Street Returning To Bucktown?!

Green Dolphin Street's original interior via Chicago Wedding Venues.

Look for the former sprawling supper club to rise from the ashes when it reopens Jan. 18 as simply Dolphin.

This time, the 13,000-square-foot space will solely operate as a nightclub, featuring four distinct rooms with dramatic light-and-sound shows, top deejay talent and the return of the infamous Boom Boom Room dance parties (moved from Monday to Sunday). The main ballroom is offset by the front-room parlor, which serves as a cocktail lounge; outdoor garden lounge; and White Lounge, which will crank out contemporary pop music.

Avec Chef de Cuisine Erling Wu-Bower Kicks Off Pop-Up Dinner Series at Leopold

Erling Wu-Bower photo via Time Out Chicago.

Here's one hot ticket you certainly do not want to miss:

Avec's Erling Wu-Bower teams up with Leopold chef Michael Dean Reynolds for the first of what's certain to be a very popular guest chef pop-up dinner series.

EXCLUSIVE: Michael Simon is Out at Carriage House, The Bedford


The talented, yet controversial mixologist Michael Simon is no longer at Carriage House and Bedford, confirms chef/partner Mark Steuer.

"He resigned on Saturday," Steuer tells 312DD exclusively. "Call it creative differences. We appreciate everything he did for us pre- and post-opening and wish him nothing but the best wherever he lands next."

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Popular Pizza Joint Great Lake is Closing at the End of the Month

Great Lake pizza via Food Republic.


Here's some news we didn't see coming.

Former Eater Chicago editor Ari Bendersky reports for Crain's that Andersonville pizza sensation Great Lake is closing at the end of January:

"The restaurant is set to close at the end of the month, according to Danny Yuen, who owns the building in Andersonvile that houses Great Lake.

"Mr. Yuen, who has owned the property for about 20 years, said Great Lake owners Nick Lessins and Lydia Esparza declined to renew their lease after about five years of business and told him they plan to move. Mr. Yuen in turn posted a 'For Rent' sign in the window of the intimate 14-seat spot.