After 11 years of anchoring Andersonville, the idiosyncratic Tomboy (5402 N. Clark St.; 773-907-0636) is getting out while the getting’s good. Tomboy’s neighbor “Hamburger Mary’s [5400 N. Clark St.; 773-784-6969] is expanding,” says Stacy Malow-Williams, a partner at Tomboy, which closed on December 21st. “I have an eight-month-old baby at home and we got an offer we could not refuse. It’s the perfect opportunity.” Ashley Wright, a partner at Hamburger Mary’s Chicago franchise, says his restaurant will double its seating capacity when the new space opens in the spring. “It will be mostly high-topped tables,” says Wright, who promises the same menu. “I hate the term ‘sports bar’ but it will have more of that feel. It’s not going to be just a bar. It will [still] be Hamburger Mary’s.”
“A Jewish woman had two chickens. One got sick, so the woman made chicken soup out of the other one to help the sick one get well. –Henny Youngman (1906-98), American comedian
Before Nana’s Hot Dogs and Italian Beef (1465 W. Lake St., Addison; 630-889-8600) even opened last week next door to the west suburban Marcus Cinema, people were wandering in. “Everyone would see the sign, get excited, and want to know if it was the original,” says Jason Gorenstein, a partner along with the same Battaglia family that owned the beloved original Nana’s in Streamwood for almost three decades. “The buzz in Addison has been ridiculous.” Nana’s Vienna Beef dogs ($2.35) come topped with hand-cut fries just like the old Nana’s did—but the Italian beef, thankfully, does not. (“The fries would get too soggy,” Gorenstein says.)
6 Questions for Otoniel Michel
Michel, 27, is the owner of Estrella Negra (2346 W. Fullerton Ave.; 773-227-5993), a new 32-seat BYO gallery/restaurant in Logan Square.
D: Do you have a background in restaurants?
OM: I’ve worked in the business since I was 13 or so. But never directly. Cleaned out beer tap systems for hotels and restaurants all over the city. That’s been my life. My only job. I was able to go to college because of it. . . . Graduated with honors from Columbia College.
D: Was it always your goal to have your own place?
OM: Yes. I’m a musician. It used to be that I wanted to be a successful musician so that I could open up a place. But I’m not set up for bands to play. It’s more of a restaurant gallery.
D: Whose art is it?
OM: We have a lot of art from local artists and family and friends. A lot of local people have come back [to eat] and brought in their artwork, too. We let them put it up on the walls. We sold our first piece two weeks ago. I let the artists keep their money. I know what it’s like to be an artist.
D: What is Estrella’s food like?
OM: My mom taught me how to make dishes and then my friends and I came up with different ideas. We have two different empanadas: spicy chorizo mixed with corn, and a spinach-artichoke empanada. People also really like our “el 24” tacos. The [meat] filling is sautéed with onion, jalapeños, and bacon.
D: Why 24?
OM: My cousin has a nickname, 24. He invented these tacos.
D: What else makes your place special?
OM: You really feel as though you are hanging out at someone’s house as opposed to being in a restaurant. When we’re not so busy, we put on some movies. A lot of people come in with their wine and we watch whatever is on the tube.
Nesh Is Fresh
Think of Nesh Mediterranean Grill (734 W. Fullerton Pkwy.; 773-975-6374), a fast-casual restaurant that opened last month in Lincoln Park, as the Chipotle of Mediterrranean food. “You get in line and pick your bread, move down the line and pick your filling. Shawarma or kebab or falafel,” says Rami Kashkeesh, the chef-partner. (Kashkeesh and his partners, Joe and Freddy Kashkeesh, own Mrs. Fields Cookies and Wetzel’s Pretzels franchises.) “We do everything here from scratch. Even the pita bread. Made here fresh in front of the customers all day long. We also have a vegetable grill. Hummus, baba ghannouj, tabouleh, couscous. Next week we will start baklava.”
A Long Hibernation
Mel Markon, who made a name for himself in the eighties and nineties with Mel Markon’s and Dixie Que, is back with an unnamed Italian restaurant in Wicker Park. “It’s very pub-oriented,” says Markon. “It’s going to be eclectic like Markon’s but this time Italian. . . . The fun menu runs the gamut from lobster bruschetta and peachy rotini to cherry Bellinis and ‘My Strega’—an aphrodisiac love potion.” Sounds entertaining. He’s mum on the exact address, but we know it’ll be on Division and that it’s coming early in summer 2009.
- On Saturday December 27th from noon to 4 pm at Schaefer’s Wines, Foods & Spirits (9965 Gross Point Rd, Skokie; 847-677-9463), plunk down ten bucks and here’s what you get: tastings of sparkling wines from Italy, Spain, California, and France; samplings of caviars, cheeses, pâtés, and hors d’oeuvres. Best of all, 100 percent of your $10 will go the Skokie Fire Department’s “Boot Day” to help needy local families.
- At John’s Place (1200 W. Webster Ave., 773-525-6670; 2132 W. Roscoe St., 773-244-6430), you can pull off a three-course New Year’s Eve dinner for under $30 (without tax or tip). It even includes a glass of Champagne.
- Starting in January: Every Wednesday in the lounge at MK (868 N. Franklin St.; 312-482-9179), a wine flight/antipasto deal for $25 per person (without tax and tip)
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Sage Grille (260 Green Bay Road, Highwood; 847-433-7005), which bills itself as an American bistro with a Euro twist has named Adam Grandt (recently sous chef at Carlos’) as its new executive chef. . . . Blackbird (619 W. Randolph St.; 312-715-0708) has jumped on the to-go-track with a la-dee-da lunch box packed with a carrot tahini salad, choice of short rib or fish sandwich, and a dessert for $15. . . . Fresh 1800 in the Hyatt Regency Woodfield (1800 E. Gold Rd., Schaumburg; 847-605-1234) opened earlier this month with Hagop Hagopian (Karma) in charge of the kitchen. . . . Your loyal Dish scribes wish you a delicious and happy holiday season. We will be back on January 7th with all the foodie news you crave.