Puck Outta Here
Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe (1701 Maple St., Evanston), the bustling spot next to Evanston’s Century Theatres, unexpectedly shuttered its doors on September 16th. Employees were called Sunday night and told the seven-year-old restaurant would not be opening Monday morning. The Puck organization, which is giving much of its leftover food to local charities, released a succinct public statement that read, in part: “Due to rising operating costs we are not able to afford the quality and price value our customers deserve.” Then it closed out with an emphatic, “Live, Love, Eat!” Just not in Evanston, we guess.
Delicioso y Sabroso Grill, Geno Bahena’s two-pronged Mexican restaurante just off the Skyway (10468 S. Indianapolis Blvd.), opened in May and closed last week after the sale of the building. “It’s a really long story,” Bahena says. “I don’t know exactly what is going to happen there.” Ever the optimist, Bahena (Tepatulco) says he is trying to renegotiate with the new owner, but as usual, he also has other plans. “I got something going on right now on 946 West Randolph Street. That’s the place we are looking at.”
“He that drinks his cyder alone, let him catch his horse alone.” –Benjamin Franklin (1706-90), American statesman
7 Questions for Dave Wolfgram, 49, CEO of the legendary San Francisco–based bakery Boudin SF, which is opening in west suburban Lombard (348 Yorktown Center) on October 9th
D: OK, first things first. You’re giving away free sourdough bread for a year to the first 100 people in line on opening day?
DW: Yes. It’s 365 loaves of bread to 100 people. That’s a lot of bread: 36,500 loaves. What the first 100 people get is 365 bread cards each that allow them to get 365 complimentary loaves through the year.
D: Have you done this before?
DW: We just opened up in Sacramento and we had people lining up at 7:30 the night before. They brought sleeping bags, lawn chairs. A couple of couples actually brought inflatable beds. We got our first 100 by two in the morning. We stuck to our first 100 [limit], but we made it worthwhile for the others also.
D: You’re a native Chicagoan?
DW: Yes. Born in the city, raised in the northwest suburbs. I moved to Northern California three years ago. I had Gino’s and Portillo’s shipped in for my Super Bowl party. Once a Bears fan, always a Bears fan.
D: Is that why you’re opening in Lombard?
DW: I am a Chicago guy, and I know what a vibrant market Chicago is. They are expanding the Yorktown mall and we are very excited to get in—and we’re looking for additional locations in both the city and suburbs.
D: How did you get to be the man at Boudin?
DW: I started with [Rich] Melman when I was 21, as a manager at RJ Grunts in Glenview. I was a Lettuce Entertain You partner until I co-founded Go Roma in Chicago. Over time, the owners of Boudin and my Go Roma team put our talents together and created a company called Forklift Brands.
D: What sets Boudin apart from other bakeries?
DW: Isidore Boudin opened in San Francisco in 1849 and brought the French baking technique and combined it with the unique San Francisco sourdough starter. At Boudin SF, the kitchen prepares breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not reheating. Not assembling. We look at ourselves as a bakery restaurant.
D: Is the legend true—that Boudin is still working with the same starter, continuously replenishing it all these years?
DW: Exactly. It’s a wonderful story. For more than 150 years, Boudin has been owned by only two families: the Boudin family and the Giraudo family. It’s still held by the Giraudos.
Joe King, a partner at Le Colonial (937 N. Rush St.; 312-255-0088), is currently working on King Cafe Gourmet & Go, which is taking over the former Corner Bakery space at 900 North Michigan Avenue. “We are going to make it two or three times the size of the Corner Bakery kiosk, and will have a lot more to offer,” says King. To wit: panini, Maine lobster rolls, upscale breakfasts like truffled eggs with Fontina cheese, and, he says, topnotch coffee. King: “We are going to have our own blends from Metropolis Coffee that they will roast daily for us.” King and the folks from the 900 Shops agree that his reign should begin in November.
“We serve Japanese food: different kinds of sushi, sashimi rolls, maki, and bento box combinations. Oh, and we also we serve tapas.” –Jane Pavlova, manager of the month-and-a-half-old Koko Sushi (3140 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-248-2988). When we asked what she meant, Pavlova said, “That means different kinds of mix of European cuisines. A little bit French cuisine, a little bit Italian. Pastas, salads, soups.” Oh, of course.
A Fire-Protection Business?
All the pasta, wines, and vegetables are organic at Piatto (5304 W. Devon Ave.; 773-467-2000), Edgebrook’s new 70-seat Italian bistro. “We do anything possible to take care of our clientele,” says partner Anna Zorn, who also owns a fire-protection business. That includes luring chef Maurizio Fonda, a Venice native, from the Phil Stefani restaurant group, to produce dishes such as bucatini amatriciana with caramelized onion, pancetta, and fresh tomato sauce and vitello forestiara, a pounded veal with cream or white mushroom sauce. FYI: After decades of being dry, certain zones of Edgebrook are now wet—and Piatto is in the wet zone.
A Quick Word About Flapjack Shots
“A hearty mixture of Jack Daniel’s whiskey and maple syrup. It tastes like when my grandpa used to make us pancakes when he was drunk. Only now I’m the one getting drunk. And there aren’t any pancakes.”–Jacy Wojcik, McSweeney’s “Reviews of New Food”
Things to Do
1. If you want to taste a legendary wine—and money is no object—go to Eno (Hotel InterContinental, 505 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-321-8738) on September 28th and ask for a two-ounce glass of 1945 Château Latour for $250. (A six-ounce glass runs $750.)
2. Call immediately to reserve a spot at Prairie Grass Cafe (601 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook; 847-205-4433) on October 3rd, when the legendary Alice Waters (Chez Panisse) will be signing books from 3 to 5 p.m. ($15 per person; appetizers served).
3. Watch an experiment involving one can of Coke, half a rotisserie chicken, and a blender.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
That massive Whole Foods finally opened in the South Loop (1101 S. Canal St.; 312-435-4600). . . . Thalia, an Asian fusion place, recently opened at 833 West Chicago Avenue (312-226-6020). . . . Just curious: Has anyone tried okonomyaki, the Japanese “pizza” at Japonica (1422 W. Taylor St.; 312-421-3288)? It’s got a choice of shrimp, seaweed, leeks, eggs, and other goodies, and it’s on a vegetable-infused fried crust. . . . Read about the reunion of Dale Levitski and Henry Adaniya . . . . The opening of Perennial (1800 W. Lincoln Ave.), the American bistro from the guys behind Boka and Landmark, has been pushed back to early next year. . . . Shameless Plug of the Week: Tune in to “The Heavyweights,” this Food Network show, on which your loyal Dish scribe Ruby will appear in disguise, first airing at 8 p.m. on September 22nd.