Two Floors of Japan
After a year of business, Farmerie 58 (58 E. Ontario St.), a massive Gold Coast space with an identity crisis (farm-oriented bistro? Raw bar? Pub?), has closed. The current plan calls for the ground level to reopen later this fall as a sushi bar with Ming San (formerly of Rise) as the sushi chef. If all goes as expected, the upstairs will eventually unveil as a casual izakaya, i.e., Japanese small plates. “Members of the family have gone to Japan to hunt down new dishes,” says Sandy Yu, an owner, whose family also owns Rise and Shine. “And I think this will be really different.” As for Farmerie 58, it’s sayonara. “We tried very hard the whole year,” says Yu. “Even got a lot of customers, but we could not survive. So we decided to do something new.”
“Life is too short, and I’m Italian. I’d much rather eat pasta and drink wine than be a size 0.” –Sophia Bush (b. 1982), American actress
Here Comes the Neighborhood
In mid-October, Steve Soble (Southport Lanes, Daily Bar & Grill) plans to open New Line Tavern (201 N. Clinton St.), an 85-seat upscale bar and grill in the West Loop. “It will be similar to what we do at Daily Bar,” says Soble. “Our burgers will be our own hand-formed patties. Daily specials will be more substantial, like braised lamb shanks and buffalo meat loaf.” As for the location, which happens to be right next to where Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris plan to open the all-American Prairie Fire around the same time, Soble is thrilled to have the company. “We are not going in as competitors. We think we will complement each other and will help the neighborhood.”
Five Questions for John Giannopoulos
Giannopoulos, a native of southern Greece, plans to open the organic-minded, late-night Melanthios Greek Char House (3114 N. Broadway, 773-360-8572) on a busy stretch in Lake View.
D: How will Melanthios be different from every other Greek spot in Chicago?
JG: We’re trying to do southern, old Greek food. It’s not the same thing as Greektown. Everything is on applewood and charcoal. An open grill. On weekends I’m going to have two whole lambs and two whole pigs on the spit where I’m cooking, right in front. I’m probably the first one in Chicago to do this.
D: What else?
JG: In Greece, the bakeries used to have those round ovens that they put wood inside to heat it up. Used to make a round loaf with a nice crust on the outside. I’m going to have miniatures.
D: What will your specialty be?
JG: I’m making the original Greek souvlaki; it’s going to be Greek chicken cooked on open char served with hand-cut, hand-peeled Greek fries made with fresh potatoes. We put them in a pan with olive oil and fry them. I’m doing homemade galaktobouriko. Homemade yogurt. Baklava, homemade.
D: Are you the chef?
JG: I’m the chef, the cook, the builder. I’m everybody. I’m doing this for my wife. She is going to take over. Her name is Jenny Acosta, and she’s from Mexico City. Everybody can’t wait for this to open up. The customers are pushing me: Let’s go, let’s go.
D: OK, so when?
JG: Hopefully the deadline is mid-October. But that’s my fourth deadline.
Banking on Success
Richard Bentsen was a banker living in Lake Bluff and periodically working in Manhattan when he stumbled upon a tiny spot in Greenwich Village called Noodle Bar. “They had the most interesting mix of authentic and fusion Asian dishes that I’ve ever had in America, at an unbelievable price point,” says Bentsen. He suggested replicating the urban concept in the suburbs—the Chicago suburbs—and a year later, another Noodle Bar (20 E. Scranton Ave., Lake Bluff; 847-735-8170) was born. Same recipes, same 60-item menu that jumps from India to Malaysia and China to Thailand with fusion dishes such as Hunan pork Bolognese and tom yum bouillabaisse. When asked if the 56-seat spot was a chain or a franchise, the banker in Bentsen answered: “I would call it a joint venture to facilitate expansion possibilities.”
Havana (412 N. Clark St.; 312-644-1900), a 99-seat Pan-Latin restaurant/mojito bar, has opened in the old Mambo Grill space in River North. “You can have nice carne asada and Cuban torta,” says Noe Bautista, the general manager. “And also we have a Peruvian lomo salteado [top sirloin with sautéed onions, tomatoes, and Caribbean mojo] and tequila-infused ice creams, guava-infused mojitos.” The chef, Cesar Martinez, comes courtesy of Mambo Grill; the owner, Saleem Sarwar, is a restaurant virgin. “But most of the employees have been in the restaurant business for a long time,” says Bautista, himself a former manager at Kinzie Chophouse.
Things to Do
- Click here and buy a $25 ticket for the second annual “Rib-A-Que Smoke-Out” in the parking lot of Moonshine (1824 W. Division St.; 773-862-8686) on September 26th. There will be BBQ from scores of restaurants and amateurs alike, live music, and plenty of beer.
- Get $2 tacos (such as al pastor-marinated pork tenderloin with caramelized onions and cilantro) and $4 margaritas on any Wednesday at John’s Place (1200 W. Webster Ave., 773-525-6670; 2132 W. Roscoe Ave., 773-244-6430).
- Grab a 1 1/4-pound whole Maine lobster for only $20 at Pete Miller’s Wheeling (412 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling; 847-243-3700) any night through October.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Kaze Sushi (2032 W. Roscoe Ave.) is closed until late October for “maintenance and repairs.” . . . In October, Fox & Obel (401 E. Illinois St.; 312-410-7301) plans to open The Atrium Wine Bar, a 50-seat seasonal restaurant, in its former test kitchen space. . . . Xoco (449 N. Clark St.; 312-334-3688), Rick Bayless’s insanely popular ode to Mexican street food, has taken the street out of the equation: It no longer offers carry-out. . . . (K)new (2556 W. Fullerton Ave.), the upscale 130-seat BYO from the folks behind Think Cafe, is slated to open this weekend. . . . Sweetwater (225 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-698-7111), a 200-seat tavern and grill from the people behind Trace and The Boundary, opens in the Loop on September 26th. . . . News flash! Another cupcake place opens. . . . Correction: Last week, we listed the wrong e-mail address for the contest to win free pizza for a year at My Pie (1361 Shermer Rd., Northbook; 847-715-9009) by coming up with the winning name for its wacky new pizza machine. E-mail your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org by October 15th. We apologize for the error.