A Stroke of Geno
Geno Bahena, the well-traveled veteran of Los Moles, Real Tenochtitlán, Tepatulco, Deliciosoy Sabroso Grill, Chilpancingo, Ixcapuzalco, and Frontera Grill, is on the verge of another opening: Danzón Restaurante (2715 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-698-6640), a Logan Square 70-seater scheduled to open Friday, serving food from around the Spanish-speaking world. “We are going to have specialties from Spanish dishes, Mexican dishes, Peruvian seviches—a little bit of everything. Even some mofongo from Puerto Rico,” Bahena says. The open kitchen houses a wood-burning grill, so the smell of mesquite and border-style chicken will pervade the dining room. A custom-made slow-roasting oven will turn out the shredded-pork dish pibil, which is served on a pretzel roll with a side of hush puppies made with potatoes instead of cornmeal. Those same hush puppies also come in a larger size as an appetizer. “I call them the snowballs,” Bahena says. Funny—“snowball” would be a good word to describe Bahena’s constantly expanding resumé.
“If you are ever at a loss to support a flagging conversation, introduce the subject of eating.”
—Leigh Hunt (1784–1859), English essayist and poet
Bob & Brisket & Ted & Ribs
Two high-school buddies, Ted Roombos and Bob Kuzmanic, left their idled home-building jobs to open T-Bob’s Smoked Bar-B-Q (1165 S. Elmhurst Rd., Des Plaines; 847-258-5381) on March 5th. “Ted cooks. Bob collects the money. We draw the line: Don’t cross mine, and I won’t cross yours. And we get along,” says Roombos, who developed his own sauces and sides. T-Bob’s serves the barbecue canon of baby back ribs, rib tips, pulled pork, and brisket every day, as well as daily specials, such as a smoked hamburger and smoked meat loaf. A full slab of baby backs runs $14.99 with a side salad, bread, and choice of potato. Ted says the flan is prepared according to a secret recipe belonging to Bob’s wife. We’re guessing her name is either Carol or Alice.
Five Questions for Dimitri
Dimitri plans to open Lulu Belle’s Pancake House (3819–21 N. Southport Ave.; 773-975-5858) on May 9th, in the former Violet space. Dimitri doesn’t use his last name (“It’s long and Greek,” he says).
Dish: What’s on the menu at Lulu Belle’s?
Dimitri: Pancakes, salads, sandwiches, waffles, crêpes, smoothies, coffees, lattes, espressos. Specialty pancakes. Right now we have about ten different ones on the menu. Deep-fried French toast. Specialty omelets such as Spuds: an omelet encased in shredded hash browns. We have a lot of healthy items, like egg-white omelets and Egg Beater omelets. Multigrain pancakes. Fresh corned beef hash made daily. Not the stuff out of the can, the good stuff. Southern-style hoe cakes, also called johnnycakes. Chicken-fried steak with eggs any style and biscuits and gravy. Homemade biscuits, made fresh every day.
D1: What kind of prices?
D2: Anywhere from $6 to $14—$14 [for an] omelet with Gouda, goat cheese, and egg whites.
D1: Are you connected with the former Lulu Belle’s in Glenview?
D2: It was my father’s. He originated Lulu Belle’s in Glenview. We’re talking 15 to 20 years ago. I took most of his recipes and the name. My father is coming out of retirement. My mom is paying me to get him out of the house.
D1: Do you have outdoor space at the new Lulu Belle’s?
D2: We have 30 seats on a sidewalk patio and then another 50 in the back. We will open the back by midsummer. The sidewalk patio first.
D1: What else should we know about you?
D2: That I am tall, good-looking, and handsome. I don’t take life seriously, and I work like an animal.
He Said It
“I love Indian food. It has very healthy spices. It’s a different take from any other ethnicity. [I see] the opportunity to develop and open up a bunch of Indian restaurants, because they aren’t out there.”
—Robert Magiet, the developer of Curried (171 N. Wells St.; 312-977-9999), a fast-casual Indian spot scheduled to open in mid-May.
Padding the Menu
On April 17th, the Edgewater bao storefront Bunz Bakery metamorphosed into M Kafe (1136 W. Thorndale Ave.; 773-878-1666), now serving not only the buns of the previous incarnation but also a full menu of Asian food, including pho, grilled meats, and the ever-popular pad Thai, says Minh Le, the manager, owner’s daughter, and possessor of the initial that gives the restaurant its name. Le’s family also owns The Noodle in Chinatown, another pho emporium. Other offerings from M Kafe include pizza (the dough is made in-house), bubble tea, made-to-order cakes, and a large cream cheese turnover. “It’s huge. Almost as big as your hand,” Le says. Despite Le’s Vietnamese heritage, pad Thai is the early leader for most popular item. “It cracks me up,” she says. “There’s American trend. They love pad Thai.”
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Things to Do
1. Sample complimentary food and wine, chat with Inovasi chef John des Rosiers, and celebrate the grand opening of des Rosiers’s second branch of his sustainable food store Wisma (528 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville; 847-361-4117), on Friday at 7 p.m.
2. Observe National Barbecue Month (as if you need a reason to eat barbecue) at Q-BBQ (70 S. La Grange Rd., La Grange; 708-482-8700), where they’ll fill you up with the Papa Q Sampler Platter (chicken, pulled pork, brisket, wings, sausage, ribs, corn fritters, and two sides) for $13.95 every day in May. Tuesdays in May also feature free tastes of the sampler items.
3. Pop in at Flour & Bones: A Pop-Up Noodle Joint, the temporary restaurant run by X-marx at Dodo (954 W. Fulton Market; 312-226-5300) from May 2nd to 11th (excluding Mother’s Day). The menu is derived from a Sichuanese noodle shop—noodle bowls ($8), dumplings ($7), side dishes ($5), and desserts ($4). X-marx has been throwing underground dinner parties for four years, and the owners plan to find a storefront someday.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Big Jones (5347 N. Clark St.; 773-275-5725) plans to join the alfresco party in June, when it debuts a 24-seat New Orleans–esque patio, according to Eater Chicago. . . . The renovated Italian spot Gioco (1312 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-939-3870) reopens today at 5 p.m. with new seasonal dishes and an antipasto table. For now, it’s dinner only, but lunch returns in two weeks, and brunch kicks in this fall. . . . Skokie’s beloved hot dog purveyor Poochie’s retired its 42-year-old original location but resumed frank-making today at 11 a.m. from new, larger digs down the way at 3602 Dempster Street, Skokie (847-673-0100). . . . The Bedford (1612 W. Division St.; 773-235-8800), an 8,000-square-foot restaurant in a former bank, opens Friday. . . . Up the street in Wicker Park, Bar Bar Black Sheep (1415 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-951-4635) opens Saturday. . . . R.J. Grunts (2056 N. Lincoln Park West; 773-929-5363) is now feeding late-night cravings until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. . . . Feast reports that Rootstock (954 N. California Ave.; 773-292-1616) will serve Sunday brunch (starting May 15th) and begin making its own cheese in the coming weeks.