Best of Chicago 06
Plaudits have been heaped upon Neko Case, the Humboldt Park alt chanteuse who early this year tipped into rock stardom with her fourth studio album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. But on her current tour, now looping across the United States and Europe, attention must be paid to the dream team behind her: Case’s longtime collaborator Jon Rauhouse on pedal steel guitar; Devil in the Woodpile regular Tom V. Ray on upright bass; and New Pornographer vet Paul Rigby on banjo. The final jewel in the crown? The acclaimed jazz songbird Kelly Hogan lends her silky voice on backup vocals.
For some, chopped liver is not a poor man’s substitute for foie gras but one of the world’s great comfort foods. Simply served on a bit of deli rye, the classic recipe blends calf and chicken livers with chopped egg, grilled onions, and a healthy dose of schmaltz. For us, the North Shore deli stalwart Max & Benny’s, which recently opened a branch restaurant in Streeterville, gets the proportions exactly right. Without a hint of dryness, the texture is smooth and creamy, the flavor a perfect balance of homey ingredients that can be detected individually but meld together beautifully. The results are so good, in fact, we pray it never becomes illegal.
Luxury Doggy Daycare
Inside the three-story edifice, the grand ballroom shimmers with gold-leaf molding, wall sconces, and crystal chandeliers. The walls are lined with curtains and faux-Renaissance paintings. This isn’t some posh manor in the Gold Coast; this is your dog’s home away from home. “Some people are amazed that dogs play here,” says Tommy Spinosa, who, along with his partner Joseph Giannini, opened the flagship location on West Randolph five years ago. “But we think they deserve it.” Now, with three locations—two in the West Loop, one in Lake View—Urban Out Sitters offers drop-off-and-pick-up daycare from $23 to $28 per day (the business also offers 24-hour, cage-free boarding and daily dog-walking services). Dogs are separated by size, and enrollment is limited.
Sarah Stegner, the chef at Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook and the mother of a two-year-old, is perhaps the perfect person to reinvent the restaurant kids’ meal, understanding as she does that presentation is key. Her fruit-and-vegetable combo plate ($4; pictured, top) is a sophisticated homage to a finicky nephew, with unexpected cheffy flourishes like a scrumptious brûléed banana. Stegner’s other child entrées—made from scratch and priced at $4 or $5 each—are a far cry from the straight-from-the-freezer fare that confronts parents most everywhere else. “Every dinner comes with a side of steamed veggies,” she notes, adding: “If you put french fries in front of kids, they’re going to eat it.” The biggest seller is Stegner’s petite filet mignon ($12; bottom): a four-ounce steak and half a twice-baked potato. It’s food fit for an adult, which Stegner believes is just as it should be.
Laurie Davis, owner of the vintage clothing boutique LuLu’s at the Belle Kay in the bustling North Center neighborhood, says her selection of vintage jewelry is “not for the faint of heart.” She plays it big, bold, and glitzy—and it pays off. The expertly edited collection has included art deco French paste earrings dating from the 1930s; gold-plated cuff bracelets from the late 1920s; and huge cocktail rings, including one dazzler from the 1950s set with blue moonstone and surrounded by aurora borealis crystals. Prices run the gamut, with crystal button earrings from the 1940s going for $42 and highly collectible Eisenberg Original brooches priced at up to $650. Persistent treasure hunters can expect something different each time they shop. Says Davis, “Every two weeks, the table turns over.”
Uninspired buffets are the norm in the world of all-you-can-eat dining. That’s why Lulu’s Dim Sum & Then Sum—a casual Asian restaurant in downtown Evanston—is a real find. On Mondays and Tuesdays from 5 to 9:30 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., the restaurant runs a seemingly insane promotion called Munch a Bunch, which lets you order every item on the menu (save a couple higher-priced selections). Our last visit found us gobbling shrimp and crab won tons drizzled with sweet chili, golden bao buns filled with roast pork, chilled steamed spinach drenched in toasted sesame vinaigrette, and spicy dragon noodles mixed with pork and napa cabbage. And that was just to start. The price, $15.95 per person, does not include beverages and desserts—or doggy bags.
Best of Chicago - Table of Contents