More Steak, More Cupcakes, More Small Plates
Laura Piper, a veteran of Gibsons and Hugo’s Frog Bar, is partnering with Scott Harris (Mia Francesca) and Jimmy Bannos (Heaven on Seven) to open T-Bone’s Steakhouse (1890 W. Main St., St. Charles), a casual 130-seat spot in the ill-fated former Fahrenheit space. “We want solid, good quality food, but prime beef is not always affordable,” says Piper. “We will hunt the market to bring in the best quality and the best value.” T-Bone’s, when it opens in mid-June, will employ a woodburning oven, a woodburning grill, and a broiler to turn out steaks with price tags between $22 and $27. Harris describes it as a place where people can wear shorts, but Piper still wants to emphasize its organic slant. “We hope to get a group of farmers to work with,” she says. “We should have no problem, being that far west.”
Salute (46 E. Superior St.; 312-664-0100), an 80-seat Italian piatti/wine bar, opens on April 29th across the street from Jake Melnick’s. “The menu will have fresh ingredients from the 20 regions of Italy,” says Dominic Gaziano, the owner, who is a doctor of internal medicine. “From Milan in the north to Rome in center of the country to Sicily.” Salute’s exec chef, James Caputo, has worked at Brasserie T and Rosebud, and his menu will feature artisanal cheeses, panini, small plates, and homemade desserts—including Gaziano’s homemade gelato and dishes from Gaziano’s mother’s cookbook, Seasons and Celebrations. The menu will also feature tramezzi, toasted sandwiches. “Tramezzi is a thinner bread than in a panini,” says Gaziano, “You cut off the crust and use some of the same ingredients, like cheeses and meats like coppa and prosciutto.”
“You know I get angry when I’m hungry. Like the Hulk. Only I don’t get all green and muscly, I just get dizzy and snap at people that don’t deserve it.” –Ethan Suplee (b. 1976), American actor, on My Name Is Earl
A Conversation with Phoebe Walters
Walters, 29, is a graduate of CHIC, and co-owner of the brand-new, 26-seat Phoebe’s Cupcakes (3327 N. Broadway; 773-868-4000), with her friend, Kate McNamara, another CHIC graduate.
D: Why more cupcakes? There are an awful lot of cupcake places right now.
PW: Instead of doing just a cheap little cupcake, we are doing high quality chocolate. Full vanilla beans. We don’t use any shortening. All of our fruitcakes are made with real fruit. This first week we will be offering a pear cupcake [$2.50]. It tastes exactly like a pear was made into cake.
D: How many flavors will you have?
PW: Eight a week. Always the vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet. The other five will rotate. But we have about 200 flavors total. So we have quite a bit to rotate. We are going to take over the world, one cupcake at a time.
D: Any offbeat flavors?
PW: Salted caramel. Dark chocolate ginger wasabi. We have green tea. White peach Bellini. Corn cake with a roasted red pepper cheese frosting. Heirloom tomato pesto corn cupcake as well. We also make doggie cupcakes and doggie doughnuts. The neighborhood has lots of dogs.
D: How did you get the word out on your shop?
PW: We passed out 3,000 cupcakes on Saturday to the first people who got to the store. We had people on the street and down around the corner.
D: Sounds like the iPhone madness of last summer.
PW: Yes. We are the iPhone of cupcakes. But that was a little meet-and-greet. We are opening this Friday [April 24th]. We’ll have coffee and muffins in the morning, and cinnamon rolls along with our cupcakes. You don’t always want a cupcake in the morning. But you want something to nosh on.
Good News/Bad News
Four quick hits from Pollack’s busy week of dining
Branch 27 (1371 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-850-2700)
Good news: Despite the insane hullabaloo in the bar and the sea of humanity we had to wade through to reach the host desk, our reservation was honored on time.
Bad news: The food was mundane and overpriced. Two mushy disks of tuna tartare sprinkled with a few black sesame seeds and three rice crackers do not add up to $12.
Tocco (1266 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-687-8895)
Good news: The food (wood-fired white pizza, radicchio salad, eggplant lasagna, seared branzino) is delish enough to get the place named one of Chicago magazine’s best new restaurants.
Bad news: Paper-thin dried-out slices of bread plunked down with a few green olives and scant Gorgonzola shards. And what’s up with an undisclosed $2 charge for the olive oil we requested?
Abigail’s (493 Roger Williams, Highland Park; 847-849-1009)
Good news: Highland Park finally scored a hip bistro with seasonal soups and salads, luxury risotto (with perfectly seared scallops), and the tenderest flatiron steak around.
Bad news: You can only call for reservations between 5 and 6 p.m., and there appears to be no host stand.
Taxim (1558 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-252-1558)
Good news: A small, smart, delicious selection of Greek specialties—roasted peppers with kefalograviera cheese, duck gyro, chocolate halva semolina cake—particularly, the oven-roasted chicken.
Bad news: Can’t think of any.
Japonais (600 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-822-9600), which began six years ago and has expanded to New York and Las Vegas, plans to open its fourth location in Atlanta in October 2010. “It won’t be drastically different,” says Miae Lim, a partner. “But we start with our base and then adapt to the city we are in.”
Cheap Things to Do
- Take your kid to Hollywood Grill (1601 W. North Ave.; 773-395-1818) between 2 and 9 p.m. on a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, and the tyke eats free.
- Investigate the new small bites menu ($4 to $6) at Takashi (1952 N. Damen Ave.; 773-772-6170), available Sunday through Thursday.
- Sit at the bar at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! (2024 N. Halsted St.; 773-935-5000) any day and eat $1 pintxos from 4 to 6 p.m. (or from 10 p.m. to midnight on Friday or Saturday).
- Go to Zocalo (358 W. Ontario St.; 312-302-9977) after 9 p.m. on Wednesday and get anything on the menu at half price.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
La Tache (1475 W. Balmoral Ave.; 773-334-7168) is in the process of remodeling and introducing “a more streamlined approach.” It will reopen on April 24th. . . . Per chicagorealestatedaily.com, the owners of Boundary Tavern & Grille (1932 W. Division St.) plan in September to open Sweetwater Tavern & Grille, a 210-seat, sports-focused contemporary American restaurant in the old Bennigan’s space at 225 North Michigan Avenue. . . . Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons (Running Press), a cookbook by Gary Wiviott, LTHforum.com founder and local ’cue expert (Wiviott’s co-writer is Colleen Rush), comes out next week. . . . If it’s 4 a.m. and you’re looking for a BYO Thai restaurant—happens all the time, we know—look into Late Night Thai (1650 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-327-9945) in West Lake View, from the owners of Asian Avenue up the street at 1624 West Belmont Avenue. . . . Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame will be at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon Dr.) on April 25th from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., signing her book, The Edible Schoolyard (Chronicle, 2008).