As the name suggests, Sidebar Grille (221 N. LaSalle St.), the latest venture from the Four Corners Tavern Group (Brownstone, Schoolyard, and Gaslight taverns), attracts a clientele heavily populated by the legal crowd. “A lot of our Lincoln Park patrons work in the Loop,” says Marc Epstein, the downtown spot’s 38-year-old general manager. Four Corners saw a need in the area, which is desperately lacking in nightlife options. “We’re all going to need AA soon,” joked attorney Vildana Kujundjic, 31, who was unwinding on a recent Thursday night with pals from DLA Piper Rudnick, conveniently located right next door. The low-lit bar is polished and cozy, with the requisite flat-screen televisions sprinkled among the dark-wood-and-leather club chairs that are often occupied by chatty suits from neighboring firms. On my visit, the place was BYO, but a liquor license is pending. The menu is similar to those at Sidebar’s brother locations with a greater focus on dinner entrées as opposed to pub grub-but of course, the skillet cookie-Four Corners’ signature chocolate-chip confection, cooked in a cast-iron skillet and covered with caramel, chocolate, ice cream, and whipped cream-has representation here.
Just a few years out of Harvard, Chris Dexter is firing up Chicago’s nightlife scene. After opening the doors of his most recent venture-Bucktown hot spot Del Toro-he’s at work on plans for Stone Lotus (873 N. Orleans St.), slated to open this month in the former Pluton space. Under the tutelage of Rande Gerber, his mentor at the W Hotels, Dexter honed a knack for trendspotting. “We’re using a fine-dining, resort approach to service,” he says of Stone Lotus. He plans to evolve the concept of bottle service, the nightclub trend by which a patron buys a bottle of a specific liquor-for a premium price-and gets a table for the night, along with mixers and bar snacks. Dexter will up the ante on the complimentary offerings, providing hot towels, designer water, and gourmet nibbles. The higher end the liquor, the more elaborate the complements: big spenders could receive freshly shucked oysters, house-made sorbets and pastries, or a six-pack of PBR accompanied by a platter of Kobe beef sliders. Dexter is working with the design team responsible for both Marquee and Butter. The sleek bar, which Dexter calls a liquor spa-a concept he has taken the effort to trademark-will feature a 60-foot water wall, blossoming cherry trees, and a wall of hanging lanterns. Dexter says he has contracted with the designers for three more places over the next few years. Clearly, this player has a game plan.
The 48th Annual Grammy Awards took me to L.A. on February 8th, taking my party-hopping into overdrive. Here are the highlights: The Def Jam party at the Key Club drew the likes of Queen Latifah and Will I. Am from the Black Eyed Peas. Chicago’s Common and Snoop Dogg each took the stage for the Roots Jam Session, hosted by Dave Chappelle and Don Cheadle. But the big moment for me was when porn star Ron Jeremy signed my cleavage with a Sharpie. . . . At Kanye West’s afterparty on Grammy night, Jay-Z and Beyonce graced a room full of hip-hop’s biggest stars, including Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Brandi, John Legend, and Common (the last two, along with West, provided impromptu performances). Filling out the celeb crowd were Pam Anderson, Gina Gershon, Grey’s Anatomy’s Isaiah Washington, Ali G’s Sacha Baron Cohen, and local boy Jeremy Piven-who was shot down by a leggy blonde sporting a very large rock on her left hand. . . . The following Friday, I hugged Cuba Gooding Jr., who was clearly enjoying himself, at DJ AM’s club LAX, where I also chatted up Taye Diggs and spied a baseball-capped Wilmer Valderamma partying with pals.