Out of Asia
Ricky Moore came here to pursue a South Asian Studies master’s degree at the Divinity School at University of Chicago. After graduation, he waited tables and gradually realized that he wanted more human interaction than the isolating academic life was likely to bring him. When searching for a restaurant space, he met Brian Greene, who is now the chef for The Savoy (1408 N. Milwaukee Ave.; no phone yet), Moore’s raw bar, seafood, and absinthe restaurant, scheduled to open in July. The seafood menu will range from simple grilled fish such as halibut or salmon with olive oil and lemon to whole grilled snapper with eggplant purée and fennel-herb salad. Desserts will include house-made ice creams (including beet) and Greene’s family recipe for peanut butter pie. The Savoy’s only draft beer will be a specially brewed rye stout called Penitence, made by Greenbush Brewing Company in Sawyer, Michigan, although many bottled beers will be available, as well as ciders, rare wines, and several kinds of absinthe. Moore promises that the place will be welcoming, relaxing, and quiet—it should be the best lounge in town for discussing the historical borders of Kashmir.
Libertyville belongs to the orbit of Chicago, but it’s really not that much farther from the next planetoid to the north. Marc Bianchini, who owns Osteria del Mondo (which is in the process of relocating), Cubanitas, and Coa in Milwaukee, opened the 125-seat Chili U (547 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville, 847-549-3152) two weeks ago in the far north (or far south, depending on how you look at it) suburb. “It’s only 60 miles from my house, so the commute isn’t bad,” he says, debatably. Following the mini trend of fast-casual spots moonlighting with full service, Chili U prepares dishes where diners select a base such as fried rice, mashed potatoes, hash browns, or angel-hair pasta and a chili to top it, with options including:
• African chicken chili with mushrooms and onions in a tomato–peanut butter sauce
• Thai shrimp chili with a coconut-milk-based stew
• Mexican meatball chili with roasted tomatillos and fresh corn
Welcome to the area, Marc. Interesting factoid about your new village: Libertyville is actually an eastern suburb of Rockford.
Six Questions for Gordon Sinclair
Sinclair pioneered River North as a restaurant neighborhood in the mid-1970s with Gordon, in the space that now holds Naha. After Gordon closed in 2000, he left Chicago.
Dish: What’s new?
Gordon Sinclair: I’m going to Mexico. Packing up from L.A. and the privilege of paying 10 percent taxes and moving to San Miguel de Allende July 22. It’s an artist community—140,000 people, 12,000 expats.
D: Why San Miguel?
GS: My life is better in San Miguel. I just got back April 1 from seven months [there]. I teach English there to Mexican adults. The school we teach in is used during the day as a children’s school. The desks are so small the adults have to sit sideways. And I like the ginger margaritas.
D: What do you think of the Chicago restaurant scene now, since you left?
GS: It’s phenomenal. It’s taken off without me. It’s very different.
D: What do you like or not like?
GS: I think it’s become very precious. I like less-precious food. I appreciate the small plates, and I take a little credit for that. Gordon went to small plates. We went to half price plus $1.50 for a half portion, and then we did it the other way around.
D: Where do you like to eat in Chicago now?
GS: I like breakfast at the place at the Peninsula [Hotel], Pierrot Gourmet. All of the servers look educated and well kept. I always like to go to Avec and see those guys. And I went to Publican Quality Meats last time. I met the three Melman kids [who own Paris Club, RPM Italian, and Hub 51],and I’m sure they were saying to their dad [Rich Melman, the head of the restaurant company Lettuce Entertain You], “Who is this guy in the white linen suit?” I didn’t come in for the Paris Club opening. Rich called me, but I was on a horse in Montana. My saddlebag was ringing. I had a nice meal at Girl & the Goat. I had to go in early. That’s OK for me. At 77, I’m used to eating the early bird special. I like to go where my friends are. I had a wonderful dinner at Amy Morton’s home in Evanston—a birthday surprise party for me. Cory Schreiber flew in for it, a former Gordon chef. Fritz Sitterly [another former Gordon chef] made artichoke fritters. They brought tears to my eyes.
D: You know, Carol Wallack has artichoke fritters on her menu at Sola.
GS: Do you have her phone number?
Measure for Measure
Chemistry and precision in cooking has definitely arrived when you can name a restaurant after two scientific scales. Baume & Brix (351 W. Hubbard St., no phone yet), a casual fine-dining restaurant planned for the old Rumba space, takes its name from the Baumé scale to measure the density of liquids and the Brix scale to measure percentage of sugar content in a solution. (We first heard about it on Eater.) “18 to 19 percent Brix is ideal for ice cream. For wine, depending on the style, you’re looking at the mid 20s,” says Thomas Elliott Bowman, the executive chef, who earned a pastry degree at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley and worked alongside the pastry chef at Moto. His menu, still in development, will include a naked lobster tartare, shelled (offsite) in a high-pressure water tank. “All the bacteria are killed off by the pressure,” Bowman says. A dish he’s already created is focaccia with foie gras and Valrhona Nyangbo chocolate. Most dishes will cost between $10 and $19, with nothing over $26. The restaurant seats 106 and has a chef’s table for an off-the-cuff tasting menu. The owners hope to open around Labor Day, about two microcenturies from now.
“I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast.” —W.C. Fields (1880–1946), American comedian, actor, juggler, and writer
Tim Coonan opened Big Shoulders Coffee Works (1105 W. Chicago Ave., 312-888-3042) in early June. Here’s how it came to be, in Coonan’s own words, condensed and edited:
“I was a sous chef at Gordon many years ago. Then I moved on to Spiaggia as chef de cuisine with Paul Bartolotta when he was there. Believe it or not, I got a little burnt out on fine dining. . . . I taught at Washburne Culinary Institute for about five years. My wife and I had a daughter, Kate. I was staying home watching her. I started teaching and was still able to be a dad. . . . I’ve been a home coffee roaster for about 15 years. This whole business started when Kate was an infant and I was riding my bike around town delivering coffee with her in the Burley trailer. But it got to be crazy. I was in great shape, but it was a terrible business model to be delivering to people’s doorsteps. . . . We are right next to the Blue Line stop on Chicago Avenue. It’s mostly grab and go. It’s only about 1,200 square feet, with a seven-by-seven foot communal table. Also a bus tracker system that we customized. . . . I am a chef and it seems counterintuitive that I wouldn’t do food, but we just really don’t have the space. Down the road, there might be some surprises. . . . The name is from Carl Sandburg’s poem ‘Chicago,’ and I want to stay true to his vision. A working man’s ‘Let’s go out and accomplish something today.’”
- The frog’s legs from Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House don’t exactly leave Pollack leaping for joy.
- Pollack checks out Simply It for pre-theatre nibbles.
- It’s time for one final Erwin burger before the restaurant shutters.
Follow Pollack on Twitter.
Things to Do
1. Discover the silver lining in the Cubs’ season at 2Sparrows (553 W. Diversey Pkwy., 773-234-2320), where Wrigley-bound fans who show their tickets receive a complimentary doughnut (rotating flavors include maple-bacon and strawberry-chocolate) made in-house by the chef, Gregory Ellis.
2. Pop in for the late-night pizza special at Bar Toma (110 E. Pearson St., 312-266-3110). Customers eating in can buy any pizza for $10 after 9 p.m. Try our fave: the Dottore, topped with La Quercia prosciutto, arugula, and mozzarella, regularly $17.
3. Arrive early for Publican Quality Meats’ (825 W. Fulton Market, 312-445-8977) sure-to-be-slammed Sunday BBQ, held July 8 from 3 to 8 p.m. For the first installment of this five-part series, the chef John Andrews (Telegraph) will join PQM’s Erling Wu-Bower and Chris Kuziemko at grills set up in the parking lot to cook up the feast, which will be offered with full table service. All dishes will be small portions priced at $17 or less. Chefs slated to man the grill on future Sundays include Matthias Merges (Yusho) and Bill Kim (UrbanBelly).
• Bar Umbriago (6 W. Hubbard St., 312-494-1200), an Italian enoteca in the former Eatt space, is open.
• Devon Seafood + Steak (17W400-17W406 22nd St., Oakbrook Terrace, 630-516-0180), the upscale restaurant known for ocean fare and prime steaks (which also has a city location at Chicago and Wabash Avenues), unveiled an Oakbrook Terrace branch this week.
• Dragon Ranch (441 N. Clark St., 312-955-1900), the Rockit crew’s new Asian-influenced BBQ joint, is aiming to open within a week.
• Piccolo Sogno Due (340 N. Clark St., 312-822-0077), a sister restaurant to the West Loop’s Piccolo Sogno with a focus on seafood from all regions of Italy, will make its debut on July 5.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
After 19 years in Lake View, Erwin’s final curtain call will be July 2. . . . Sarah Levy announced that plans to relocate her Oak Street bakery to a nearby space fell through. Both locations of Sarah’s Pastries & Candies will close in late July. . . . Eater reports that Top Chef contestant Chris Jones has left his position as sous chef at Moto. . . . Also in Eater, news broke that B.K. Park left Arami suddenly, prompting the restaurant to close temporarily. Reopening is slated for July 10. . . . After parting company with Argent last week, Jackie Shen has landed at Friendship Chinese Restaurant, where she plans to reprise some of the signature dishes, such as whole catfish, that she created at Red Light. . . . Marigold is closing its Uptown digs on July 8, and will relocate to a yet-to-be-announced Andersonville location, where it will resume service this fall. . . . Open since last month, Troy Mediterranean Grill, a 45-seat Turkish BYO that makes its own pita, offers kebabs in one- or two-skewer sizes. The owner/manager, John Ozcan, says, “The idea, I come up with it. People want to go out but they are not too hungry.” . . . Team Dish will be gone fishin’ next week. Enjoy the holiday and keep an eye out for our next installment on July 11.