The forthcoming West Town restaurant from Billy Lawless (The Gage, Henri) will take over the former Orange space at 730 West Grand Avenue starting this spring. The casual spot will have three bars—upstairs, downstairs, outside—and 160 to 170 seats. Lawless is partnering with Branko Palikuca (Topaz) for an American menu that will make use of a wood-burning grill. “Not pizza. Tony Priolo has that covered across the street [at Piccolo Sogno],” Lawless says. The beverage team from Lawless’s other restaurants, the spirits director Clint Rogers and the sommelier Shebnem Ince, will oversee the project’s drinks menu as well. No name yet, but Bronco Billy’s has a nice ring to it.
Just before presstime, Matthias Merges gave us the addresses of his two Hyde Park projects:
- 1301 E. 53rd St. The more substantial of the two projects, this restaurant will employ John Vermiglio (Table Fifty-Two) as chef de cuisine.
- 1466 E. 53rd St. The offshoot of Yusho.
Both are slated for late-spring or early-summer openings.
On Sunday morning, Grant Achatz, the culinary visionary behind the four-star Alinea (1723 N. Halsted St., 312-867-0110) and the shifting-quarterly Next (953 W. Fulton Market, 312-226-0858), talked with Madeleine Grynsztejn, the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Here are a few of the most interesting moments from the discussion.
Madeleine Grynsztejn: What’s the next wave in cuisine from Alinea?
Grant Achatz: Participatory cuisine. Involve more artistic and emotional elements. I think people won’t like it, and I’m OK with that.
MG: What’s eluding you right now?
GA: Why does a restaurant need to have a permanent address? If Next were at [Yountville, California’s] French Laundry for a month, there would be the locality, seasonality, and terroir of the Napa Valley. That’s an exciting idea.
MG: How do you keep Next from being Disneyesque [with the menu changing every few months]?
GA: It’s hard. Be a good self-editor. I shouldn’t tell you this, but I will. Next [at Next] we are going to do The Hunt, a Midwestern-game-focused menu. Someone said we should buy pelts.
MG: Talk about the creative process.
GA: When I was staging at El Bulli, Ferran Adrià made a dish laced with squid ink. Why, I asked? It’s just black. Squid ink has no flavor. He said he wanted people to have black lips. The whole impetus for the dish was for people to look silly.
MG: How do you use the space to elevate the experience?
GA: It’s not necessarily about the food anymore. It’s about the experience. The hallway of Alinea this summer was laid with fresh sod every day because it smelled like fresh-cut grass, and that’s summer. Now it’s hay, pumpkins, and dead oak leaves, because that smells like fall.
MG: [You once discussed an idea to] commission a cello piece to [play during] dessert. [Where did that come from?]
GA: I had some Roquefort blue cheese in my mouth, the strongest kind of cheese. And I had someone play a C chord on the cello. It was like a palate cleanser. I couldn’t taste the cheese anymore. It blew my mind. I’m looking into using music as a seasoning. I want to look into the way you perceive flavor as sound.
Lettuce Be Clear
If we have more than three errands to run in one trip, we get addled. Surely this confusion does not afflict Rich Melman, the top banana at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, who called to give updates large and small on several projects. The biggest goes by the working name The Hotel (almost certainly not its eventual name) and will serve as the restaurant for three new hotels rising above it at the corner of Clark Street and Grand Avenue. The menu at the 130-seater will be determined by the corporate chefs Susan Weaver and Rita Dever. Now, where did those keys go?
Keeping a link to the Vernon Hills–based restaurant’s 23-year past as Silk Mandarin, the new owners Cliff Ostrowski (Red Light, China Grill) and his brother-in-law Bo Wungwattana (Japonais) rechristened the place Silk Asian Tavern (4 E. Phillip Rd., Vernon Hills, 847-680-1760) and introduced a pan-Asian menu about a month ago. A new sushi kitchen and a binchotan-burning robata grill supply Japanese items, and the menu also touches down in China, Thailand, Korea, and Vietnam. As at Japonais, diners can cook their own sliced marinated beef on a 500-degree-stone, a method known as ishiyaki. Sake, shoju, Asian beers, and Asian-inspired cocktails bring pan-Asia to the bar, as well. Free appetizer samples from 4 to 6 p.m. this Monday through Wednesday and a charity event on Thursday, November 15, officially launch the new Silk. Presumably the similar name for the restaurant reassures the existing customer base and makes the transition as smooth as, um, a baby’s bottom.
“Just say ‘Pilsen.’ We’re just spelling it a different way,” says Cesar González, a part owner of Pl-zen (1519 W. 18th St., 312-733-0248), a gastropub near the 18th Street Pink Line stop. The menu, from the chef Albert Benitez (Kuma’s Corner, Gioco), includes items such as wild boar meatballs with golden raisins and toasted pine nuts, a roasted Amish half-chicken with a wild rice–quinoa cake, and a passel of burgers, as you’d expect from a Kuma’s alumnus. A vanilla-porter-based dessert called beeramisù featured as a special on Monday. Fancy cocktails, all $8, include the Gutless (Few white whiskey, pear purée, basil, balsamic vinegar mist) and the Brunette (12-year rum, hibiscus concentrate, guava foam, cardamom, clove).
“If I think I’m about to get a cold and feel achy and chilled, I know it’s time for hot [apple] cider with rum.” —Joyce Goldstein, James Beard award–winning chef and founder of the California Street Cooking School
A Friend of Dish on Table, Donkey, and Stick
On Monday night, I attended the new pop-up dinner at Table, Donkey, and Stick (2728 W. Armitage Ave., 773-486-7511). The Alpine-themed series is the vision of the chef Shin Thompson and his partner Matt Sussman, who are using the pop-ups to audition a handful of chefs for the restaurant. While the first dish from the auditionee Jonathan Keeley (Bonsoirée, Blackbird)—a beet, carrot, mascarpone, apple, and poached trout salad—was a strange choice, the following four courses were a diverse, delicious array. The pork sausage, rillettes, and pâté plate (paired with Sussman’s grilled pretzel) was a sweeter take on traditional charcuterie. However, the dish I was most struck by was the braised rabbit–squid ink pappardelle. It was a gorgeous, delicate balance of flavors and textures—I might even climb an Alp to eat it again.
Suite Home, Chicago
The second story, so to speak, for the owner of Bucktown’s Rio’s d’Sudamerica will be Suite 25 (2529 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd Floor, 773-360-7478), scheduled to open December 3. Up a flight of stairs from ground level, Suite 25 will offer a South American–tinged bar food menu that imports some successful items from Rio’s, such as seviche, empanadas, and Incan tater tots. The lomo saltado, popular at Rio’s, will be transformed into a sandwich. The 90-seat space also features a bar specializing in craft beer, beer-based cocktails, and several sports-tuned TVs. “We are not reinventing the wheel,” says Dino Pérez, the owner. “[We’re] having bar food with some South American and Latin influence. [We also] have the typical nachos, wings, burgers, wraps, fish tacos.” In other news, fish tacos became typical while you weren’t looking.
- Pollack hears groundbreaking news for chocolate-lovers from Vosges Haut-Chocolat.
- The grilled mahi mahi at Petterino’s makes for a lovely overture.
- Nu Crepes serves up a sugar-and-cinnamon energy bomb.
- Expect spring chicken on Elston Street.
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Things to Do
- Put on your party hat for Zocalo’s (358 W. Ontario St., 312-302-9977) tequila tasting tomorrow, November 8, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. To the beat of live, local Latin music, Victor Baheza will pour specialty margaritas in addition to samples of Milagro silver, reposado, and añejo tequilas. ¡Qué fiesta! The $25 ticket also buys access to passed appetizers.
- Warm Up and Bear Down at the thusly named chili cook-off and tailgate party hosted by Moonshine Brewing Company (1824 W. Division St., 773-862-8686) from 1 to 6 p.m. this Sunday, November 11. For the fourth-annual competition, 16 pros and amateurs will vie for the Gilded Ladle and a temporary spot for their chili on Moonshine’s menu; attendees will compete for fullest belly. Tickets are $15 at the door, $10 with the donation of a warm coat to a drive sponsored by 1st Ward Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno. Early purchasers can save another $5.
Dine and donate to the American Red Cross’s Superstorm Sandy relief effort.
- On Saturday, November 17, Shaw’s Crab House (1900 E. Higgins Rd., Schaumburg, 847-517-2722) and Tokio Pub (same address, 847-278-5181) will join forces for a benefit from 9 p.m. to 12 midnight. A $35 ticket nets cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and live blues rock by The Pat Smillie Band.
- Koi (624 Davis St., Evanston, 847-866-6969) will donate 1 percent of all sales on November 14 and offer half-price martinis and $2.50 select appetizers.
- Carnivale (702 W. Fulton Market, 312-850-5005) will donate a percentage of the proceeds from every Carnivale Martini ($10.95) sold through November 30.
- Chicago Q (1160 N. Dearborn St., 312-642-1160) will give 5 percent of all bourbon sales through November 30.
- The Goddess and Grocer (various locations, 312-896-2600) will match donations added to online orders through November 30.
- Italiasia (Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza, 350 W. Mart Center Dr., 312-529-1157) will donate 5 percent of proceeds from dinner sales through November 30.
- Chrissy Camba (soon to appear on Top Chef) begins raiding the pantry at Pastoral, the gourmet grocery store next door, this Monday for her menu at the 50-seat Bar Pastoral (2947 N. Broadway, 773-472-4781).
- The Tap Room at Half Acre (4257 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-248-4038) opened this past Friday. No food, just ten different brewskies straight from the source—and the possibility of firkins on Fridays.
- Interurban (2008 N. Halsted St., 773-698-7739), a walk-up window café accessible from an alley off Armitage Avenue, opened Saturday, run by the pastry chef Christine McCabe (previously of Glazed and Infused). Sandwich breads are from Labriola, and the flaky, gooey morning bun has been an early bestseller ($2). McCabe plans a kiosk in the Grand and State Red Line station for January.
- The phone lines are open for Curtis Duffy’s long-awaited Grace (652 W. Randolph St., 312-234-9494). Duffy tweeted that December and January reservations are being accepted.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
According to Crain’s, Ashkenaz Delicatessen will close this Sunday, November 11. The owner, Howard Cohan, sold the space to the Los Angeles restaurateur J Wolf, who plans to open a distinctly non-kosher spot called Da Lobsta specializing in lobster rolls. . . . But hark, Jeff Aeder plans to open a kosher barbecue and bar called Milt’s Barbecue for the Perplexed in December. . . . In another switch-up, Melt Sandwich Shoppe closed on Thursday, to be replaced by the Korean/Japanese Enhakkore in 2013. . . . Glenn’s Diner is Glenn’s no more. Grub Street reports that the eponymous owner Glenn Fahlstrom has quit the restaurant after a legal dispute with partner Laurence Jones. . . . Wicker Park’s MC Restaurant & Lounge, run by Julie Mai (Le Bistro), has closed, according to Eater.