“The chive dumplings are game changers,” Pollack said when she ate at an unassuming 40-seat BYO Thai and sushi place in Lincoln Park called Rock Wrap & Roll (2187 N. Clybourn Ave.; 773-472-2800). The restaurant, which opened this past spring, has two chef/owners, Chef Kit and Chef Itti. Itti also owns TAC Quick, a neighborhood Thai spot in Lake View where the not-so-secret secret Thai menu compares with the best in the city. Popular dishes at Rock Wrap & Roll include moo ping—marinated pork skewers—and prik king, crispy pork and string beans with jalapeño and red curry paste. We’re thinking it won’t be long until Rock Wrap & Roll’s connection with TAC Quick is about as secret as that Thai menu.
Give ’Em El
A Friend of Dish ate at the ultrasmall El (2419 W. 14th St.; 312-226-8144), the new restaurant from Phillip Foss and Andrew Brochu, and sent us this report:
Trying to find the place is an adventure. It is on a dead-end street that you are almost afraid to drive down. They serve fewer than ten diners a night. I believe there were 13 courses, but I stopped counting somewhere along the way. It is friendly and fun. The starter of moonfish belly, caviar, steelhead roe, kohlrabi purée and stems, blini, quail egg, white nectarine, and dill was delicious and set the tone for the rest of the meal. For one of the courses, the diners go into the kitchen, and the chefs set it up there—it was a currant shooter, made of red currant consommé, litchi tea, verjus foam, and pink peppercorns. The sweet and sour cleansed the palate for the lobster-lily-turnip dish that followed. You can visit the kitchen at any time and watch them working. Each chef comes out and introduces his own courses. All of us were literally licking our plates or fingers.
“I don’t like food that’s too carefully arranged; it makes me think that the chef is spending too much time arranging and not enough time cooking. If I wanted a picture I’d buy a painting.” —Andy Rooney (1919–), American radio and television writer
Breaking New Ground
Uncommon Ground (3800 N. Clark St.; 773-929-3680), Wrigleyville’s favorite eco-conscious restaurant/music venue, recently celebrated its 20th year at that location. For 15 of those 20 years, owners Michael and Helen Cameron have been trying to buy the 105-year-old building housing it. “Every time we would get to the signing table, the owner would change his mind and say he didn’t want to sell it,” Michael Cameron says. They finally got their wish and are now expanding into the storefront next door at 3804, with plans to expand the dining room and enlarge the kitchen this fall. “We’re looking for ways to give my chef [Justin Martin] more room on the line to do more creative things, like homemade pizza and pasta dough,” Michael says. Twenty years there and now two spaces—can they really still claim to be uncommon?
With many years’ worth of memorabilia collected to use for décor, Ben Creamer and Donna Dailey plan to open a police-and-fire-department-themed restaurant called Mo Dailey’s Pub & Grille (6060 N. Northwest Hwy.; no phone yet), named after Donna’s late husband, a CPD district commander. The Norwood Park spot, scheduled to open this winter, will seat 180 diners and serve burgers, draft beer, and, Creamer says, Irish nachos: “It would be like waffle fries smothered with chili, jalapeños, olives, diced tomatoes, sour cream, and guacamole,” he says. The partners hope to get the community involved, hosting events for police foundations and the like. A tip for those who eat there: Don’t even think about pocketing a saltshaker.
If you’ve walked down Broadway in Edgewater recently, you may have noticed that the French bistro Côtes du Rhône was closed for the summer. If you haven’t walked by there recently, Côtes du Rhône’s owner, Brian Moulton, would say that’s part of the problem. “The location is not really conducive to what I’m doing,” he says. Moulton now plans not to reopen there but to move to Xippo (3759 N. Damen Ave.; 773-529-9135) and create a small-plate French menu with items such as sautéed spinach and artichokes with toasted crushed walnuts; roasted tomatoes Provençal with pesto, goat cheese, and a bread-crumb crust; and pork tenderloin with sun-dried cherries, caramelized shallots, and a balsamic vinegar reduction. The restaurant’s name may change in the future, but the new menu debuts today. Petit-plat French, now that we think about it, seems surprisingly rare, especially given that one of the local forefathers of small plates has a French name: Avec.
- How’s the Southern mac at Ethyl’s Beer & Wine Dive? Hearty, cozy, and decadent.
- Pollack has no qualms regarding the saucy ribs at Pete Miller’s Steakhouse.
- Pollack kicks off her Washington, D.C., tasty travels at . . . Johnny Rockets.
- Follow Pollack on Twitter.
On the Blog
Things to Do
1. Defeat the heat with a chilly prix fixe from The Market Bistro (Fox & Obel, 401 E. Illinois St.; 312-379-0132). The three-course menu of yellow tomato gazpacho, chicken or shrimp panzanella, and macerated peaches with berries and sabayon costs a cool $15.99 and will be offered nightly from August 4 to 14 after 5 p.m.
2. Meet Stephanie Izard tomorrow, when she hitches a ride with Gaztro-Wagon to sell her own lamb sausage naanwich and pass out tickets for a chance to win entrance to Taste of the Nation on August 10. The Girl & the Goat chef and the food truck are slated to arrive near the Aon Center at noon, but exact details will be revealed on Twitter.
3. Catch Christian Boudard (the pastry chef at the Michelin three-star Guy Savoy Rue Troyon in Paris) in action at Alliance Française de Chicago (54 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-337-1070), when he demonstrates his coveted La Boule Noire—a spherical chocolate-pear creation—and shares samples of other sweet treats with attendees. The event costs $60 and takes place August 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. Register online or by calling Alliance Française.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Team Dish sends happiest 90th-birthday wishes to Eadie Levy, the Levy Restaurants matriarch and resident meet-and-greeter at Fulton’s on the River. . . . The newly unveiled 15 East Huron Street location of the upscale boutique Ikram will nourish shoppers with light lunches from a second-floor café called The Red Box. . . . As reported by 312 Dining Diva, Dion Antic (Porkchop, Bagel on Damen) plans to open a gourmet-grilled-cheese concept named Melt Sandwich Shop early next month at 1840 North Damen Avenue. . . . Matt Riordan (Pops for Champagne) is the new executive chef at Saigon Sisters. The Chicago native says, “I want Saigon Sisters to become the go-to restaurant for unique Vietnamese flavors with a decidedly Chicago and Midwestern focus.” . . . With 300 seats, 30 TVs, a wide-ranging beer list, and a fancy bar-food menu finally in place, The Scout Waterhouse and Kitchen announced its grand opening will be August 19.Dining & Drinking