What’s New, What’s Coming, and What’s Cheap in Chicago Dining
Boarding House, Pecking Order, Carriage House, and Embeya
Kale Caesar salad
New: The Boarding House
Meeting friends for dinner or a drink at the Boarding House can be more complicated than it might seem. The 1870s townhouse-style building (formerly home to the nightclub Cairo) offers more options than the Chicago Stock Exchange. Alpana Singh, the sommelier/partner, brought (predictably) the spirit of wine into the decor—floor by floor. Under a light installation incorporating 1,800 wineglasses, you can belly up to the convivial first-floor bar for Christian Gosselin’s Rib Newton: braised short rib meat, bacon-date jam, and pickled jalapeños on a baby brioche bun. “Perfect with a rosé like syrah or a classic California zinfandel,” says Singh. In the more leisurely upstairs dining room—with 2,400 wine bottles covering the ceiling in yet another elaborate lighting motif—a kale Caesar salad punched up with pecorino cheese and brioche croutons is a nice start to dinner. Then there’s the wine cellar, where a dramatic glass storage case is on display in the late-night lounge. Meet you at the Boarding House. But where, exactly? 720 N. Wells St., 312-280-0720
Coming Soon: Carriage House
What you thought you knew about Southern food is likely wrong. “It doesn’t have to be heavy or deep-fried,” says Mark Steuer (Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, Bedford), chef/partner at Carriage House, an ode to the cuisine of his youth in Charleston, South Carolina. Steuer’s menu will abstain from the lard-laden and focus instead on seafood and produce. The French, Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences characteristic of Charleston’s fare are evident in dishes like the clam boil with Vidalia onions, fennel, and house-smoked tasso ham. But you were right about one thing: Thanks to a little help from Mindy Segal, there will never be a lack of sugary cakes (red velvet, icebox) and cobblers. 1700 W. Division St., 773-384-9700.
Coming Soon: Embeya
Answer: A chic but comfortable neighborhood restaurant with a sophisticated yet approachable modern Asian menu that’s opening on Randolph Street in mid-September. Question: What is Embeya? Right. But that sounds like lots of places these days. So why pay attention to this one? Because Attila Gyulai, who has serious management experience at luxury hotels including the Four Seasons, said so. He met his chef/partner Thai Dang (L2O, Ria) at the Elysian, where they quickly discovered a shared passion for great Asian food. After Gyulai described Dang’s snail preparation (poached in lemongrass) and his tamarind short ribs, we felt like Jeopardy! winners. 564 W. Randolph St., 312-612-5640.
Budget: Pecking Order
Saying something tastes like chicken usually means it’s kind of boring, but the comparison is a well-deserved compliment at this fowl-happy place. Chicken comes grilled, roasted, or fried, and all renditions are homey and delicious—as far from drive-through nuggets as you can imagine. The masterminds behind this counter-service operation are chef Kristine Subido (Wave) and her mother, Melinda, and they do an impressive job of bringing the flavors of the Philippines to Uptown.
Start with a lychee mimosa ($7) or a whiskey punch ($6), then proceed to the main event, perhaps half a chicken ($10.95) with a side ($11.95) or two ($12.95). Grilled sweet corn kernels make a great choice, but the pickles are even more fun, with shaved jicama, green papaya, carrot, ginger, and daikon. Pinoy eggs ($4.50) are a crunchy treat of five-minute eggs wrapped with chorizo-like longaniza and then breaded and fried. Sandwiches are another way to go; the Country Bird ($9) is piled with fried chicken, Gouda, cilantro, and onion salad on grilled pandesal (a crispy Philippine dinner roll), a combo that is even yummier with banana ketchup. Halo-halo—shaved ice mixed with fruit and syrup—bring meals to a sweet close. 4416 N. Clark St., 773-907-9900.
Photography: Anna Knott