Up in Smoke
“This is just a cute little barbecue joint in Wrigleyville,” says Jack Jones, the owner of Wrigley BBQ (3555 N. Broadway, 773-472-1227). “I don’t need to worry about wine glasses and fancy plates and cloth napkins.” Although he still holds an ownership interest, Jones no longer cooks at his namesake restaurant, Jack’s on Halsted, a former fixture in Chicago magazine’s restaurant listings until its casualizing revamp a few years ago. At Wrigley BBQ, now open a week, Jones serves ribs, chicken, pork, and brisket cooked in a Southern Pride smoker fired with cherry, oak, and apple wood. “I am waiting for peach wood, but I can’t find it anywhere,” he says. Burgers made with Rain Crow Ranch grass-fed, free-range beef and sides, such as aged cheddar mac and cheese, maple whipped sweet potatoes, and beans with burnt ends, also feature. Barbecue platters cost about $10, and a full rack of ribs $19. And while it may not sit right in the shadow of Wrigley Field, Wrigley BBQ seems at least some consolation for the way the Cubs’ season turned out this year.
Six Questions with Russell Bry
Bry is the executive chef of Giordano’s, a position he came to after opening Scoozi!, Wildfire, and Shaw’s Crab House, among others, with Lettuce Entertain You and co-founding the Go Roma casual Italian chain. Bry’s new Giordano’s menu, including dishes such as a meat pie-like Northside Style Italian beef sandwich, will have rolled out to all locations by December 4.
Dish: How does working for Giordano’s compare with opening more upscale spots such as Wildfire and Shaw’s?
Russell Bry: For the first time in my career, I have not had to invent every single thing.
D: You didn’t change the pizza?
RB: No. We embellished the pizza but have not changed the recipe at all. You’d have to be a damned fool to do something like that. We’ve added some new toppings: pesto chicken, barbecue chicken, balsamic onions, bacon, artichokes.
D: Other than the pizza, what percentage of the menu is new?
RB: It’s 100 percent new. The old menu had 48 items, not counting pizza. They had eight to ten sandwiches, lasagne, three different kinds of ravioli. Fried mushrooms, fried zucchini. Things that aren’t relevant. To compare the dining public’s food of 20 years ago to today, people think of food completely differently.
D: What has been successful in the stores that have already seen the new menu?
RB: Salads used to be 1 percent of sales. They’re up to 7½ to 8 percent. Starters have gone up to 13 percent from around 4 percent. Pastas up from 2 percent to 7 percent. We’ve always had 71 percent pizza sales. That’s gone down to 68 percent or 69 percent, but that’s a good thing. It means people are using the new parts of the menu.
D: What about desserts?
RB: We’re paying homage to stuffed pizza. We do a six-inch stuffed apple pie where we use the pizza dough for crust. Caramel apples on the inside. Bake it partially, take it out, put more caramel and streusel on top, and bake again. It’s meant for sharing.
D: Do you miss being in fine dining?
RB: I’m having fun. At my age, I have no desire to make it so technical in the kitchens that it can’t be produced unless I’m there.
“No diet will remove all the fat from your body, because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office.” —Covert Bailey, Fit or Fat PBS personality and fitness author
Will You Be Mayan?
A 19-year veteran of Rick Bayless’s downtown Mexicomplex, Enrique GAnnmez holds the rudder at Aguamiel (30 S. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, 630-537-1966), a west suburban Mexican spot that opened October 8. “Even Rick did not want to let him go,” says Sylvia Xim’enez, an owner. “[Gómez] always wanted to do the rustic cuisines the way the Mayans intended it to be.” In the former Maijean space, Aguamiel offers a menu of about eight appetizers, eight entrées ranging from $11 to $18, and tacos using tortillas handmade to order with a wooden press and a griddle called a comal. Another chef, Fernando Manriques, age 20, will bring molecular gastronomy techniques to the menu in the coming weeks. Xim’enez calls him the prodigy. Wonders, Mayans, and the year 2012—if that confluence can sell tacos half as well as it sells books, Aguamiel has it made.
For Whom the Bellwethers
Sometime this winter, Bellwether (302 E. Illinois St., no phone yet) is expected to spring fully formed from the heads of Athena, the Greektown 500-seater, a project we first heard about from Crain’s. Taking over the P. J. Clarke’s space near the AMC River East movie theatre, Bellwether will serve an American menu with some stalwarts from Athena, such as the spinach-and-feta-stuffed chicken. Nick Tsoukalas, the owner, promises a lively but not loud atmosphere, everything but bread made in-house, late-night food, and maybe craft beers and retro cocktails, pending customer input. “We’ll see what the neighborhood desires and cater to that,” he says. Taking “bellwether” seriously, apparently.
He Said It
“Pickled beef tongue with caraway-braised cabbage and horseradish aïoli. The bartenders love it.” —Michael Lathrop, the new chef at Acre (5308 N. Clark St., 773-334-7600), asked for his favorite dish he’s featured on the menu
Pieces of Eight
Anne Carlson and Cody Modeer, formerly of Andersonville’s In Fine Spirits, plan to open Ward Eight (629 W. Howard St., Evanston, 773-369-4911), a classic-cocktail lounge, in Evanston’s 8th Ward at about Thanksgiving. “We had a baby and started looking to see if it were possible for us to open our own place,” Carlson says. “We found a space where we could actually live above the bar.” With about 35 seats, booths made of refurbished church pews, and a drink list using small-batch and local liquors, Carlson and Modeer aim for an intimate, approachable ambiance. In consultation with In Fine Spirits’ former chef, Marianne Sundquist, the pair plan a menu of meats, cheeses, house-made soups, sandwiches with fillings such as braised meat, and desserts, probably also made in-house. Sounds homey—just the right atmosphere to bring in a baby monitor.
- Garden-fried rice is the least disappointing bite at Jellyfish.
- The she-crab soup at Carriage House almost gets Pollack to go back for more.
- At Amelia’s Bar & Grill, Pollack keeps hold of her knife.
Follow Pollack on Twitter.
Things to Do
Dress up as your favorite character from Saved by the Bell and head over to Antique Taco (1360 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-687-8697) for a Bayside-style Halloween bash. Today until 10 p.m., the Wicker Park taco joint is serving burgers, dogs, and sides inspired by characters from the 1990s teenager sitcom, and the interior will be decked out like their diner hangout, The Max. Just try to keep the caffeine pills to a minimum.
Vote early at BQ2GO, the takeout counter at BellyQ (1400 W. Randolph St., 312-563-1010). Through November 3, lunch orders come with two free politically charged wings. Democrats can sample Left Wings with tangy yuzu-cumin barbecue sauce, while Republicans receive two spicy hoisin barbecue Right Wings. Undecideds or independents can try one of each.
- Follow the food trucks to the voting booth on Tuesday, November 6. Southern Mac & Cheese and Flirty Cupcakes are handing out free food, paid for by the parking website ParkWhiz, which is throwing in 25 percent off future parking in Chicago. As if you needed another reason to vote.
- The neighborhood deli and grocery store Plenty (2036 W. Division St., 773-270-1509) is “open-ish,” the owners say, as of Monday, October 29. While the deli is not yet up and running, the locavore grocery has plenty of produce available. Check Facebook for updates.
- Cine (29 E. First St., Hinsdale, 630-590-5655) will celebrate its grand opening this Saturday, November 3. The executive chef, Yanitzin Sanchez, previously of Sabor Saveur, has created a menu of flautas, seviche, and empanadas to accompany the taquería’s cocktails.
- Found (1631 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-868-8945) will open November 6, just in time to watch the election results roll in. The restaurant’s name and concept are based on found furnishings from the 1920s to ’50s and a local focus, and the owner, Amy Morton, says she wants the space itself to spark conversation and intimacy.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Custom House Tavern closes its doors for good tonight after seven years of serving the Printers Row neighborhood. The owners, Peter Drohomyrecky and Sue Kim-Drohomyrecky, will instead train their efforts on their other restaurants, Maison and Eggy’s. . . . According to the Tribune, area outposts of Chipotle will begin serving beer from the Chicago brewery 5 Rabbit Cerveceria. . . . At Zed451, the new executive chef, Curtis Hawk, created an à la carte menu for the lounge and roof. The alternative menu features more-casual fare such as flatbreads and sliders. . . . Rick Bayless has conjured yet another cookbook, titled Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks. On shelves November 5, Frontera features 35 variations on the classic margarita. . . . Team Dish offers condolences to the friends and family of former Sun-Times dining critic Pat Bruno, who passed away yesterday.