River North Ranch
Republic Pan-Asian Restaurant & Lounge, which closed on September 20th, will reopen under the same ownership on October 1st as Farmerie 58 (58 E. Ontario St.; 312-440-1818), a 150-seat “farm-centric” contemporary American restaurant. “It wasn’t doing poorly,” says Brian Newman, the general manager. “We just felt there were better concepts to really utilize this space.” Such as one that employs a former farmer who is dedicated to sustainable, organic products, and dishes such as a duroc pork loin with roasted garlic crushed potatoes, wild mushrooms, sauce all’ arrabbiata, and garlic chips. Farmerie 58’s chef, Billy Alexander (Emeril’s, Commander’s Palace), is an Alabama native who grew up in a farming and restaurant family. “I started working in the family restaurant at age ten,” he says. “It was that or working the potato shed on the farm. . . . I’ve always been interested in getting back to the farm. Food does not come from a grocery store: It comes from a guy out in the field with a hoe, tilling the soil.”
Interesting . . .
Alexander has also worked with the United Nations on a program called The Growing Connection to teach people about where food comes from. “They put these earth boxes all over the world, self-sustainable planting boxes. When you water something in the ground only 30 percent gets to the plant. The rest of the water is wasted. The box is 100 percent. No water is wasted, due to a wicking system.”
“I was so angry to realize I’m a Quebeçois, with no past, no history, just two cans of maple syrup.” –Jean-Claude Lauzon (1953-97), Canadian filmmaker
Ya Mo B Blue There
We’ve got the name of the guy who’s replacing Martial Noguier as chef of One Sixtyblue (1400 W. Randolph St.; 312-850-0303): Michael McDonald. No, not the former frontman of the Doobie Brothers—this McDonald has worked with Charlie Trotter, Jean Joho, and Gray Kunz, and will begin in the West Loop spot next month.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Salmon
After a long hiatus, David Oland, formerly of David’s French Country Bistro in Naperville, returns next month with David’s on Jefferson Hill (43 E. Jefferson Ave., Naperville; 630-548-9393). “I did just about everything but cook for eight years,” says Oland, 40. “Sold a lot of real estate. Owned an Internet company. Sold baby strollers on the ’Net. Worked in a couple of places in Germany.” His new restaurant in the old Masala Yangu space will be more casual than his last, with simple dishes such as crispy-skinned, line-caught king salmon with braised bok choy and sea beans ($28). “I don’t want to call it a bistro or fine dining,” he says. “Don’t want to pick fights I can’t win.” Oland’s seven-year-old son, Emerson, is getting in on the action. “He has his little chef coat and he comes in and cleans vegetables,” says Oland. “For the first time in a long time, I am happy in the kitchen.”
Rinconcito Sudamericano (1954 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-489-3126), a 28-year-old Peruvian mainstay in Bucktown owned by Elizabeth Perez, will move into the larger Rios D’Sudamerica space on the other side of Damen (2010 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-276-0170), which is owned by Perez’s son, Dino. Rios, a two-year-old South American fusion restaurant, will keep its name but make way for a two-pronged Peruvian approach. “We’re expanding our menu,” says Percy Perez, a manager, also a son of Elizabeth’s. “We now have access to more Peruvian products. My ma has been cooking traditional food that we all know, and Jose Vittorio will bring in what’s in Peru now.” Expect the move to be complete by January, and the menu at Rios to begin changing as early as next week, incorporating dishes such as pollo a la brasa, a chicken marinated for 24 hours in a traditional Peruvian rotisserie ($15 with avocado salad and french fries).
RoPa Restaurant & Wine Bar (1146 W. Pratt Blvd.; 773-508-0002), a new 115-seat spot, pays homage to Rogers Park with its name, but its heart is in the Mediterranean. “It’s basically American cuisine with a lot of Mediterranean influences,” says Tarik Emanet, a Turkish-born partner. “Some nice steaks, seafood, pasta, poultry, very easy cuisine. All of our salads are unique. Mediterranean style—a lot of olive oil is used.” Some of RoPa’s dishes break the mold, though, such as the appetizer of feta/parsley spring rolls, and a homemade cheesecake and apple pie. The former Café Suron space got a major makeover, which includes decorative tile and wood tabletops, plus a wine cellar for tastings unveiling in November.
Things to Do
- Pony up for Chicago Gourmet, the extravagant three-day festival from September 26th to 28th in Millennium Park. Basically every good chef in town will be there, celebrating the city’s culinary greatness with demos, tastings, and seminars. This is the big one, and its price—$150 for a one-day pass; $250 for the whole weekend—reflects that.
- Head to the parking lot next to Moonshine (1824 W. Division St.; 773-862-8686) on September 27th any time between noon and 6 p.m. for the Rib-A-Que Smoke-out. You’ll be joined by Top Chefs Stephanie Izard and Dale Levitski, local band Devil in a Woodpile, and competitors from countless restaurants ($25 in advance; $35 at the door).
- Ask for the bill like this guy.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Jim August, former exec chef of Oak Park’s Café Le Coq, has turned up at Cortland’s Garage (1645 W. Cortland St.; 773-862-7877), a Bucktown bar that offers countless burger-and-fries variations. . . . The Fifty/50 (2047 W. Division St.; 773-489-5050) lives up to its name, offering 50 percent off to poor AIG and Lehman Brothers employees through September (except on Fridays and Saturdays, when they have to pay full price to drown their sorrows). Just bring your pay stub, ID, or battle scars. . . . ROX City Grill (100 W. Main St., St. Charles; 630-845-5800), the new restaurant in the historic Hotel Baker, has opened. Since it’s new, we’ll give the cheesy web site a pass (“It’s hot. . . .It’s cool. . . . It’s dining at its finest.”) . . . The Bull & Bear (431 N. Wells St.), an ill-timed Wall Street–themed bar, opens in October in River North with microbrews on tap at every table. . . . FYI: Dish is off next week; we’ll be back October 8th with all kinds of good scoops.