So Many Opening, So Little Time

Park Place
Tavern at the Park (130 E. Randolph St.; 312-552-0070) is not a gastropub,” says chef John Hogan; “it’s a mainstream American tavern.” The 300-seater overlooking Millennium Park, scheduled to open in early August, is the brainchild of Hogan and his partners at Keefer’s (20 W. Kinzie St.; 312-467-9525), Glenn and Richard Keefer and Pete deCastro. Expect crowd pleasers such as rotisserie chicken, fresh fish, and pastas, not to mention everybody’s new favorites-mini burgers and flatbread pizza. And remember, it’s not a gastropub. Fine. We’ll take two trends out of three.

But Who’s Keeping Score?
The restaurant gods must have held a convention and declared July 12th as kickoff day for one fast-and-furious week of openings-some soft, some grand. Dish has reported on many of these places over the past few months but we whipped up this handy-dandy reminder list of who, what, when, and where, along with a word or two from the key players, so you can decide for yourselves which ones live up to the hype.

July 12th openings

Sepia (123 N. Jefferson St.; 312-441-1920)
“A contemporary restaurant that celebrates tradition. I want a restaurant that has a soul.” –Emmanuel Nony, owner (interviewed February 26, 2007)

Il Fiasco (5101 N. Clark St.; 773-769-9700)
“What we are trying to do is make a place in this neighborhood that will give a gourmet dish at a good price.” –Michael Moore, owner (May 30, 2007)

Lucky Strike Lanes (100 Yorktown Center, Lombard; 630-916-8681)
“A laid-back experience where you can come and enjoy family favorites. Very upscale for a bowling alley.” –Nicole Agee, chef (July 10, 2007)

July 13th openings

English (444 N. LaSalle St; 312-222-6200)
“I would describe the menu as American contemporary with a little bit of English flair.” –David Mitria, director of marketing for Eat Well Drink Better Inc. (June 5, 2007)

Between Boutique Café and Lounge (1324 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-292-0585)
“No TVs. We want to keep it very romantic here. It’s more important that people interact with each other than have something to distract them.” –Carl Anderson, owner (June 26, 2007)

July 16th opening

Otom (951 W. Fulton Market; 312-491-5804)
“You could describe it as comfort food. For me, that has the ability to satisfy the mind and body. When you eat food that is familiar from your past, it should have the ability to sort of warm you.” –Daryl Nash, chef (June 19, 2007)

Opening the week of July 16th

The Bluebird Bistro & Wine Bar (1749 N. Damen Ave.; 773-486-2473)
“Simple food. Old World Euro-style comfort food, classics. Wine bar meets gastropub.” –Tom McDonald, owner (April 17, 2007)

Whatever Happened to PB & J?
Five years ago Mindy Friedler and her husband, Mark Bires, opened Jerry’s (1045 W. Madison St.; 312-563-1008), a simple Loop lunch counter, where they quickly built a core menu of 100 made-to-order sandwiches-not counting the ones customers can concoct themselves. Now the operation has expanded to Wicker Park (1938 W. Division St.; 773-235-1006), where the bread-slinging couple hope to attract a dinner crowd. Shouldn’t be too hard with a full bar focusing on American craft beers and Sprecher Root Beer on tap to wash down such creations as a two-fister called Emily H-think blackened chicken, Cheddar cheese, avocado, and chipotle mango chutney.

Help Wanted
Anyone have the scoop on the not-yet-open Milwood Pizza? It’s at 1360 North Milwaukee Avenue and the sign says pizza and hamburgers. That’s all we know.

FOD Report of the Week
Republic Pan-Asian (58 E. Ontario St.; 312-440-1818) . . . is kind of like the Nicole Richie of Chicago dining: it’s really pretty and really screwed up. There were a million people working there, but no food. They brought my salad, then 20 or so minutes later brought the appetizer. After 45 minutes, [my companion’s] entire order still hadn’t materialized so we called over the manager and asked for the check. The waiter, at least, was honest. He said he forgot to put her order in and pleaded with us not to leave because it was . . . coming down the elevator. I guess that’s restaurant-speak for  “the check is in the mail,” because five minutes later, it still hadn’t come. So, um, I wouldn’t recommend it. –A trusted FOD

Epicurious Launches MyEpi
We think it’s weird-like MySpace, only for food people.

Quotable
“For the millions of us who live glued to computer keyboards at work and TV monitors at home, food may be more than entertainment. It may be the only sensual experience left.” –Barbara Ehrenreich, author, social critic

Things to Do
1. Eat for free and learn about grass-fed beef at the Tallgrass Beef Tasting this Friday at Fox & Obel (401 E. Illinois St.; 312-410-7301) from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
2. Check out this story. We sure hope the residents of Minersville, Utah, enjoy salad.
3. Join Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill, Topolobampo), Carrie Nahabedian (Naha) and Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Avec) at Thursday’s Green City Market’s Chefs’ Summer BBQ Festival to celebrate regional cuisine. Visit the Web site for more info.

Dot Dot Dot . . .
Congratulations to Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine (2945 N. Broadway; 773-472-4781) for being one of six retailers nationally to be named Outstanding Specialty Food Retailer by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. . . . Mark Mavrantonis (Fulton’s on the River) has turned up as the new executive chef of Mike Ditka’s in Oakbrook Terrace (2 MidAmerica Plaza, Suite 100, Oak Brook, 630-572-2200). . . . Pomegranate (1633 Orrington Ave., Evanston; 847-475-6002), a new Middle Eastern spot, opened June 18th. . . . Ryan Hunter (Puck’s at the MCA) has taken on the chef position at Parlor (1745 W. North Ave.; 773-782-9000). . . . Adios: According to the message on its answering machine, Palmito (3605 N. Ashland Ave.; 773-248-3087), a charming Costa Rican storefront, has closed for good. . . . A Good Deal: Morton’s The Steakhouse (see mortons.com for all locations) is offering a special $99 four-course steak and seafood dinner for two through September. (The average per-person tab at the popular steakhouse is $88.) . . . Shameless Plug of the Week: For the hottest restaurant news all week, check Dish Flash between issues.

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