Greece Is the Word
Have a taste for revani? Loukoumades? Psaronefri? “You’ve never had Greek food like this, very individualized items,” says Toni Di Meola about the food at her two-week-old Mythos (2030-32 W. Montrose Ave.; 773-334-2000). She and Vicky Zervas—her sister and partner—were born and raised in Athens and they hand-squeeze every lemon and use herbs carried back from Greece by their mother. But the sisters are most proud of the deep fryer that they have never used. “It came with the property, but we pan fry or sauté everything in extra virgin olive oil,” says Di Meola. “We don’t want the smell of the grease.”
BTW: Revani is a semolina flour cake made with 16 eggs; loukoumades are puff balls sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with honey; and psaronefri is charcoal-broiled pork tenderloin served with homemade mustard sauce. And the place is BYO.
How to Build a Better Cupcake
“Opened on December 7th and we’ve had a lot of return customers already. Even people who come in two or three times in the same day,” says John Nicolaides, the owner of Molly’s Cupcakes (2536 N. Clark St.; 773-883-7220). That’s amazing. What’s up with these cupcakes? For starters, Molly’s standard-size cupcake is only two bucks and, according to Nicolaides, they are supermoist. But, even better, Molly’s has got a shtick that’s new to the cupcake game: Build your own. You pick a cake flavor from four—chocolate, vanilla, red velvet, carrot—and then choose the frosting and add toppings. Sounds way more fun than a salad bar.
Meet the Neighbors
You know a neighborhood has arrived when it boasts a wine boutique. Enter Amy Garman and South Loop Wine Cellar (1442 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-356-0630). The one-month-old, 1,200-square-foot space is Garman’s pride and joy. “I don’t mind tooting my own horn,” she says. “It’s a warm, inviting space with the original raw-brick walls and warm colors on the stained concrete floor.” Garman carries between 150 to 175 bottles at any one time and loves how the community supports local businesses. She thinks, in her case, customers come back because she remembers their names and the wines they buy. Superstores be damned: There’s nothing like the personal touch.
“Roquefort should be eaten on one’s knees.” –Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de la Reynière (1758-1837), French lawyer, writer, and gastronome
Pollack Scouts Two New Spots
Expensive and elegant in a supper-club way, the too-new-to-review Powerhouse (215 N. Clinton St.; 312-928-0800) could become the new darling of the let’s-eat-dinner-in-peace-and-quiet set. Granted, I dropped in late on a cold weeknight and the place was mostly empty, but how brilliant is this? The bar—that’s where the noise is—is in an entirely separate room, and the dining room is designed to be relaxing. What a concept. I didn’t order much, but what I had, I liked (romaine salad, sweet onion soup, scallops with bitter orange purée, and venison).
And just for the contrast, the next night I tried Frankie’s 5th Floor Pizzeria (900 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-266-2500). That’s Lettuce Entertain You Enterprise’s partial replacement of the almost departed Tucci Benucch. It’s also Rich Melman’s second bid in as many months to hop on the thin-crust pizza bandwagon—Pizzeria Via Stato opened in late October. I didn’t quite follow the concept here. Two kinds of pizza on the short casual menu: one called pizza, the other called Sardinian pizza. The “pizza” comes off as shy about its crust identity—it’s not quite the newly trendy Neapolitan, nor is it traditional Chicago thin style. It falls somewhere in the middle and therefore, despite its superfresh ingredients, doesn’t provide seminal pizza pleasure. Sardinian pizza, on the other hand, is so crisp as to almost be a flatbread. Tasty and fun, but more breadbasket fare than meal. But oh, how I loved the Italian salad, chock full of peppers, Parmesan, teardrop tomatoes, and my personal favorite, fennel. It’s hard to find a good salad. Thanks, Rich.
Things to Do:
1. Transport yourself to hog heaven at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! (2024 N. Halsted St.; 773-935-5000) to experience Spain’s legendary Ibérico Pata Negra ham ($13.95 for two ounces). It’s a golden—and fleeting—opportunity to taste this rare, melt-in-your-mouth delicacy.
2. Watch Patrick Sheerin (The Signature Room at The 95th) exhibit his culinary abilities on December 15th at the Museum of Science and Industry (57th and Lake Shore Dr.; 773-684-1414), 10:30 to 11:15 a.m.; the demo is included with general admission.
3. Get into the holiday spirit with a European dancing turkey.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Announcement: Richard Melman (LEYE) and chef Laurent Gras have settled on a name, L.20 (pronounced el-two-oh), and concept, modern high-end seafood, for the chi-chi spot to replace Ambria some time this spring (2300 N. Lincoln Park West). Aw, go ahead and read The Stew; Vettel did a fine job of slicing and dicing the press release. . . . Five-month contract? Brian Jupiter (Narcisse, Bella Lounge) has replaced Jeffrey Mauro as executive chef at La Pomme Rouge. . . . Speaking of apples: This week, Steve Chiappetti (Viand) heads to the Big Apple for a double-header. On the 13th, he’ll whip up his Stockyards Dinner at the James Beard House; the next day, he’ll school the Today crew in fun holiday finger food. . . . Opened: Local spot D.O.C. Wine Bar has spawned a second location in Lombard (326 Yorktown Center; 630-627-6666). . . . Coming attraction: The folks behind Lula Cafe will launch a new venture next year on South Halsted. No name yet, but they have a chef: Lula’s current sous-chef, Jason Vincent. . . . Apologies: Last week, in our item One Down, Two to Go, we mistakenly named Drew Niemeyer as Meritage’s chef. Troy Graves is the executive chef at Meritage, and Niemeyer was a cook there until this past August.