A Splash on Madison
Randolph Street may be filling up rapidly, but two blocks away on Madison, there is an untapped market. Caryn Struif, a former general manager of Marché and Park Grill and an ex-partner at MK, plans to open a 100-seat upscale casual restaurant at 1020 West Madison Street next spring, in a space currently under construction. “A new space outfitted exactly the way they want,” says Jason Vondrachek, who owns the building. “They will do their own finishes and completion.” Struif says the restaurant, which has the working name Madison Street Kitchen, will have an open kitchen, decor with natural woods and clean lines, and an approachable menu. “We will have burgers for sure and lots of lady-friendly dishes,” she says. “I doubt that we will have pig face.” They’re not ready to announce a chef for the project yet, but Struif says, “You can be sure it will be somebody pretty wonderful.” Now excuse us while we go buy property on Adams Street to stay ahead of the next wave.
“Like Chipotle” is a trendy phrase for fast-casual restaurants, used as a shorthand to refer to the choice-of-fixings line in Chipotle burrito assembly. Observe now the latest usage, for Covo (1482 N. Milwaukee Ave., no phone yet), a 70-seat Wicker Park gyros spot planned for late August from Ted Maglaris, one of the owners of the also-Greek-named Prasino. Like Prasino (which means “green”), Covo (“cut” or “carve”) will stock organic, local, hormone-free ingredients for its chicken, pork, and classic lamb-beef gyros, as well as for sides such as quinoa lentil salad and puttanesca black-eyed peas. Maglaris says the decor will have a meatpacking district theme. “One wall is a garage door so you can walk in and out and eat outside, too,” he says. Watch this space for further lexicographic development of “like Chipotle.” It’s only a matter of time before it becomes “Chipotlesque.”
Four Questions for Jim Rees
Rees co-owns the forthcoming 225-seat Chicago location of Hash House a Go Go (1212 N. State Pkwy., 312-202-0994), a chain with locations in Las Vegas, Reno, and San Diego. They hope to open July 24.
Dish: How did Hash House a Go Go start?
Jim Rees: The original is a storefront in San Diego. It started in 2000. Not the greatest location, but you can find it because every day there are 50 to 75 people standing in line waiting to get in.
D: What is the concept?
JR: Presentations are unusual, yet the food is very recognizable. When it’s delivered to the table, [there’s a] wow factor. I would say 70 percent of [customers] take pictures of their food.
D: What are some examples?
JR: Fried chicken and bacon waffle tower. It’s four bacon waffles, with bacon put right into the batter. We stack those waffles and put two of our sage-fried chicken breasts on top. Each one is eight ounces. Drizzle a hot maple reduction and top it with fried leeks. And, of course, we add our signature garnish, which is a 12- to 16-inch sprig of rosemary. The other signature item is fried chicken Benedict. It was featured on Adam Richman’s Man v. Food on the Travel Channel. It starts with griddled mashed potatoes. Top that with a homemade split biscuit. Then we put bacon, tomato, and spinach on top of that, then we add our eight-ounce sage-fried chicken breast. Top that with a three-egg scramble, and then we top that with griddled mozzarella cheese. And then we pour our homemade chipotle sauce on top of that. Again we put our sprig of rosemary and stick a steak knife on top because you will need it.
D: Are there any salads or fruit plates or something less gargantuan?
JR: There are a variety of salads, plus a lot of sides. [Frequent customers] have figured out how to [navigate the menu]. You can get the burger without the bun. A piece of grilled salmon and a side salad. You can learn how to use the restaurant without having to eat these enormous portions, and we have items that are more moderate in size.
“In the last analysis, a pickle is nothing more than a cucumber with experience.” —Irena Chalmers (1935–) American author, food commentator and essayist, teacher, and culinary student mentor
Maid in Chicago
Following the age-old story line, a small-town girl heads to the big city to seek her fortune—Maid-Rite, the casual-dining chain at the historical forefront of franchising and carhop service, plans to open its first Chicago location in August: the Lincoln Avenue Maid-Rite (2429 N. Lincoln Ave., no phone yet). The Iowa-based chain specializes in breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches and ground beef “loose meat” sandwiches. “Like a Sloppy Joe with no sloppy,” says Bradley Burt, the company’s president and CEO. Also, the Chicago branch will be one of the select locations that will serve barbecued ribs. Fittingly, the restaurant is only two doors down from the Biograph Theater. The ingénues always head for the theatre.
New Reviews: Davanti Enoteca and Perennial Virant
New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics’ recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website. Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. Davanti Enoteca and Perennial Virant previously were not listed. Both reviews appear in the July issue, on newsstands now.
Davanti Enoteca (1359 W. Taylor St., 312-226-5550). Italian.
★½ (good to very good)
$ ($20–$29 per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
This Scott Harris gem veers far from the heaping pasta bowls of its Taylor Street forefathers. Instead, the focus is on rustic, shareable plates. Chewy-crusted pizzas are tough to pass up, but thoughtful antipasti, vasis (mini Mason jars filled with spreads like ricotta with local honey), and simple, unadulterated pastas steal the show. The decor—including vintage milk jugs reimagined as hanging light fixtures—is tasteful and fun, but branded plates create a chainlike feel. Buy a bottle from the well-hidden wine racks in the back (but beware the $7 corkage fee).
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
Perennial Virant (1800 N. Lincoln Ave., 312-981-7070). American.
★★ (very good)
$$$$ ($50-plus per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
Want to know which American food trends are hot right now? Paul Virant’s breezy-chic spot across from Lincoln Park has got you covered. Hearty shared bites, like smoked ham hock beignets? Got ’em. Irresistible bar snacks, such as fried cheese curds and spicy corn nuts? Check. Seasonal offerings that showcase American farms, such as the crackling Caveny Farm Rouen duck schnitzel and other intricate gems posing as crowd pleasers? All over the menu. The bar, of course, overflows with stellar craft cocktails, and Elissa Narow’s desserts, like apple-rhubarb pie with Three Sisters oat crumble, play up the Americana angle. If all this sounds calculated, it’s not: The food is honest and original, the staff happy and smart.
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
Plenty of Community
Hoping to cater (literally) to the locally minded values of their Wicker Park neighborhood, Davey Sommers and Gwen Harley plan to open a grocery store and deli called Plenty (2036 W. Division St., 773-270-1509) later this summer. Produce, dairy, dry goods, and meats and cheeses from a deli case will be for sale, as well as grab-and-go foods from local businesses. The communitarian spirit even extends to how they’ll amass the plenty promised by the business’s name—Sommers and Harley launched a campaign using the Kickstarter website to raise funds to open the store, offering vintage-inspired prints, reusable shopping bags, and food subscriptions as incentives. “It will be like the old corner grocery store,” Sommers says. Crowd-sourced funding for the old corner grocery store is the barn-raising party of the 21st century.
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Things to Do
1. Plant yourself in front of the TV at The Fifty/50 (2047 W. Division St., 773-489-5050) at 8 p.m. tonight, when the Wicker Park bar hosts a viewing party for Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America. Tonight’s episode features The Fifty/50’s Four-Courser—made with pulled pork shoulder, Gouda béchamel, battered and fried jalapeños, barbecue sweet-potato chips, a macaroni-and-cheese-stuffed waffle, and barbecue sauce. The $10 sandwich will be on special for $4 all night.
2. Make dreams come true at I Dream of Falafel, which celebrates three years of falafeling tomorrow with a $3 lunch menu (choice of a falafel wrap, chicken kebab wrap, or doner kebab wrap and a bottled water or soda), available at all three locations.
3. Wish Dose Market (River East Art Center, 435 E. Illinois St., 312-321-1001) a happy anniversary on Sunday, when the food-and-fashion bazaar toasts its first year with free pours from Goose Island and a bevy of tasty for-sale snacks, such as sandwiches from Bagel on Damen, floats from Seasons Soda, and cream puffs with Champagne-soaked strawberries from Seedling Orchard, served by Grayson Schmitz, a Top Chef contestant (and one of Chicago’s most eligible singles). The market runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission costs $10 at the door or $8 in advance.
4. Check out Jeff Ruby’s take on Chicago’s cutthroat (or not) pool of restaurant critics.
- Untitled (111 W. Kinzie St., 312-880-1511), a 17,000-square-foot bar and entertainment venue featuring a restaurant with about 100 seats, is open.
- City Tavern (1416 S. Michigan Ave., 312-663-1278), an 18th-century-tavernesque spot from the team that owns Chicago Firehouse and Wabash Tap, opens tomorrow.
- Panera Cares (616 W. Diversey Pkwy., 773-528-4556), Panera Bread‘s nonprofit, community-focused café with a pay-what-you-can philosophy, begins service tomorrow.
- Alimentari (621–23 W. Randolph St., 312-382-8880), an Italian restaurant from the owner of the recently shuttered Pane Caldo, makes its debut on Friday.
- Bonsai Bar & Lounge (3503 N. Halsted St., 773-248-0100), an Asian-influenced bar and restaurant, where the food menu tends toward spring rolls, rice dishes, noodle dishes, and lavash pizzas, opens Saturday, just in time for Pride festivities.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
The chef Jackie Shen parted company with Argent this week. . . . Eater reports that Evanston’s burger baron Eddie Lakin plans to open a second Edzo’s Burger Shop in Lincoln Park this fall. . . . The Chicago-based Vosges Haut-Chocolat has launched a sister company, Wild Ophelia, with the goal of bringing gourmet chocolate creations to grocery stores. . . . Speaking of sister businesses, now that the Granville Red Line station is closed, M. Henrietta will operate its dinner service out of M. Henry, beginning tomorrow. The chef/proprietor, Michael Moorman, plans to decide whether to keep dinner at M. Henry when the station reopens in roughly six weeks. . . . Congratulations to Jason Vincent (Nightwood), who earned “King of Porc” honors at Grand Cochon, a snout-to-tail cooking contest at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado. . . . Nadia Velázquez (Naha, Ambria) has been appointed pastry chef at The Signature Room at the 95th. . . . Matthew Holmes (Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Restaurant Max in Minneapolis) is the new executive chef at the Devon Avenue location of Uncommon Ground. . . . “We have an olive oil called Oglarola, the chardonnay of olive oil,” says Sandy Schuenemann, the owner of Oh, Olive, an olive-oil store opening its fourth location, at 904 West Armitage Avenue, on Friday. Customers can taste the 28 oils for sale with bread or sipped from a little cup.