Hello, Purgatory; bye-bye, Bubala

Hot off the Grill
“We just wanted to bring Korean food to Old Town, or downtown, because everything else is located up north,” says Okcha McDonald, a partner at three-week-old Red Top Grill (1507 N. Sedgwick St.; 312-981-1775). RTG is in the old Heat space and the former sushi bar is now decked with built-in gas grills for Korean barbecue. All the classics are on hand—bibim bap, bulgogi, galbi, chap chae—and plenty of kimchi. McDonald admits that parking around there is terrible but they are working on valet service and, for now, the place is BYO with no corkage. Not a bad tradeoff for stowing the car a few blocks away. 

One Down, Two to Go
As reported here last week, Meritage (2118 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-6434) will close on January 1st. But even before the owner, Chris Peckat, turns the key for the last time, he plans to launch his next venture, Risqué Café (3419 N. Clark St.), an American smokehouse. While Drew Neimeyer (Peckat’s Meritage chef) bones up on ribs, duck wings, turkey legs, and pulled pork, Peckat keeps busy with the selection of 200 to 300 American craft beers to go with the ’cue. But that’s not all…

Hot off the Grill
“We just wanted to bring Korean food to Old Town, or downtown, because everything else is located up north,” says Okcha McDonald, a partner at three-week-old Red Top Grill (1507 N. Sedgwick St.; 312-981-1775). RTG is in the old Heat space and the former sushi bar is now decked with built-in gas grills for Korean barbecue. All the classics are on hand—bibim bap, bulgogi, galbi, chap chae—and plenty of kimchi. McDonald admits that parking around there is terrible but they are working on valet service and, for now, the place is BYO with no corkage. Not a bad tradeoff for stowing the car a few blocks away. 

One Down, Two to Go
As reported here last week, Meritage (2118 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-6434) will close on January 1st. But even before the owner, Chris Peckat, turns the key for the last time, he plans to launch his next venture, Risqué Café (3419 N. Clark St.), an American smokehouse. While Drew Neimeyer (Peckat’s Meritage chef) bones up on ribs, duck wings, turkey legs, and pulled pork, Peckat keeps busy with the selection of 200 to 300 American craft beers to go with the ’cue. But that’s not all. Peckat’s got the space next door to Risqué ready to roll out as Purgatory Pizza (3415 N. Clark St.) by early February. That will be yet another thin-crust pizza joint for our town. Jeez, this guy has every trend in the book covered. 

He Said It
“I’ve been here ten years, including Thyme. Have had a really good run. I’m not going to renew the lease, but I’m going out with a bang.” –John Bubala on his decision to close Timo (464 N. Halsted St.; 312-226-4300) after a New Year’s Eve blowout

Beanie Babies
Every entrée at two-month-old Borincuba (3424 W. Irving Park Rd.; 773-866-2822) comes with rice, beans, and plantains. But depending on which side of the menu you order from, the rice, beans, and plaintains taste either Cuban or Puerto Rican. That’s because Frank Aguilera’s sister (and partner), Aracelia Rodriguez, is Cuban and his aunt, Estrella Aguilera, is Puerto Rican and each does her own thing in the kitchen. So Auntie turns out empanadas, alcapurrias, and mofongo, while Sis concentrates on ropa vieja, bistek en salsa, and lechón asado. The place is BYO and, so far as we know, no fights have broken out over the spice rack.

An FOD Goes Wild
Intrigued by the announcement that Alan Katz (Blue Mesa) was back on the scene as chef at a beautiful new über bar in Lake View, we set one of our top FODs loose to scope out the results. Herein, the report:

Naming a pub after Oscar Wilde is pretty ambitious; after all, he’s the guy who once said, “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” Walking into The Wilde (3130 N. Broadway; 773-244-0404), a cozy, wood-paneled bar, and seeing the décor, I thought at first that, perhaps, the naming might be apt. The place looks magnificent, particularly the slightly elevated “library,” which features a crackling fireplace, bookcases brimming with hardbounds, and comfy seats for sipping wine and staying a while.

But unless Oscar adored onion rings for dinner, he wouldn’t find much else worthy at The Wilde. The bacon-topped macaroni and cheese was undersalted and drippy and the turkey burger was mushy. But the worst offender was the whole-wheat spaghetti: It came topped with chewy, overcooked grilled chicken chunks and roasted red peppers that appeared to have been slid straight out of a jar. Sorry, onion rings do not a meal make.

Quotable
“How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?” –Julia Child (1912-2004), American cook, author, and television personality

Things to Do:
1. Indulge in festive sweets, sip Champagne, and have yourself a merry little sugar rush at Sweet Collective’s (5333 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-293-0888) holiday tasting party. Better hurry, though—the festivities are tonight (December 5th) from 6 to 9 p.m.
2. Stir up some romance at Corner Cooks (507 Chestnut St., Winnetka; 847-441-0134) in a special class showcasing Italian holiday fare. For $65, learn how to make perfectly seared scallops in saffron-butter sauce, tiramisù, and more. The evening ends with a candlelit dinner for all. December 8th, 6:30 p.m. Advance registration required.  
3. Wonder how much money went into this important research.

Dot Dot Dot . . .
Looks closed: No one answers the phone, and the windows of ten-year-old Salbute (20 E. 1st St., Hinsdale; 630-920-8077) are papered over. . . . Such a deal: On Tuesdays at Adobo Grill in Wicker Park (2005 W. Division St.; 773-252-9990), creative diners can combine an app, entrée, or dessert to make a two-course “tasting menu” for $20. Let’s be clear: It’s 20 bucks for two courses out of three. . . . New loungestaurant: Connoisseur (1041 W. Grand Ave.; 312-738-3055), a 12-table spot that owner Gerald Lott describes as a great date place: “It’s dimly lit but comfortable. Very, very sexy.” . . . Dinner at last: After eight years as a wine bar/small plates haunt, The Tasting Room (1415 W. Randolph St.; 312-942-1313) finally offers entrées—just three each night. Dish hasn’t tried any of them yet, but the owner, Brenda Fotopoulos, is gaga for the seared duck breast with Champagne tarragon cream sauce. . . . Clarification: That nice deal at Cy’s Crab House we wrote about last week is good only with a purchase of one entrée per person. No crabbing allowed: It’s still a darned nice deal.

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