Wham Bam Thank You, Graham
In the course of a week, Graham Elliot (217 W. Huron St., 312-624-9975) lost both its executive chef, Andrew Brochu, and then its pastry chef, Bryce Caron, both moves we first heard about on Eater. After Brochu left, Caron, who started his career in savories, expressed interest in taking over as executive chef. He quickly had a change of heart, realizing he’d rather make simpler food than Graham Elliot was serving. “[Returning to savories] has been my goal for a while, but I couldn’t see myself doing it there,” he says. “I’ve been in fine dining for so long, I became obsessed with manipulation and making something different from what it is. But what I really enjoy about cooking is keeping the ingredients just as close to what they are as possible.” Brochu did not respond to interview requests by presstime.
Graham Elliot the man will now return to day-to-day operations at Graham Elliot the restaurant. He says he doesn’t immediately plan to hire an executive chef or a pastry chef, but he’s always looking for talented people. He answered a few more questions by e-mail:
Dish: What do you plan for the restaurant in the long term?
Graham Elliot: To continue to evolve, push the envelope, and be one of the best restaurants in Chicago.
D: Where are you spending most of your time these days?
GE: Assisting my amazing wife, Allie, with changing baby diapers, providing opportunities for negative comments on Eater, and floating between Graham Elliot, Grahamwich, and G.E.B.
D: How has the concept for Graham Elliot the restaurant changed from when you opened in 2008?
GE: When we first opened the idea was “fine dining redefined,” and while we still follow that ethos, we’ve definitely evolved into a destination restaurant rather than a place to come a few times a week.
D: In addition to the bad news with Brochu and Caron, you had some good news recently, being inducted into the Chicago Culinary Museum’s hall of fame and honored by Rahm Emanuel’s declaration of Graham Elliot Day. How do you feel about all this hitting at once?
GE: When it rains it pours, and when it doesn’t rain, it’s at least drizzling on me. I’m definitely a (large) target of both positive and negative attention, but as Popeye says, “I am what I am.”
Peter Burdi, already the owner of downtown Hinsdale’s Italian restaurant Il Poggiolo and sushi spot Nabuki, plans to take another step in building his own United Nations in the western suburbs this November, when he opens the Mexican place Cine (29 E. First St., Hinsdale, no phone yet) in a former movie theatre. Cine will comprise a lounge area serving bar food such as tacos and a dining room with traditional Mexican food, overseen by the chef Rosalia Barron (Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Naha), a native of Mexico City. She plans authentic ingredients and preparations, such as beans cooked overnight with epazote and her prized moles. “I believe that my moles are going to make the big difference,” she says. “My specialty is mole negro. It takes about two days to finish.” Quite the lineup of cultures on First Street, Hinsdale, but we’d have picked a different suburb to perfect our UN-restaurant metaphor: Geneva.
Speaking of guys with their fingers in a lot of pots, Brendan Sodikoff (Maude’s Liquor Bar, Au Cheval, Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf) announced earlier this month that he plans to open a ramen bar called Kotsu Ramen (230 W. Kinzie St., no phone yet) below his sceney restaurant Gilt Bar in January, a project we first heard about from 312 Dining Diva. Depending on whether Sodikoff can acquire part of the adjacent space, Kotsu will either abut the cocktail bar Curio or subsume part of it, and will seat around 35 slurpers. “The concept is centered around tonkotsu ramen,” he says. “[It will be] a pork-chicken broth [made] with a traditional Japanese method. We hang a bag of rice in the broth, which gives a viscous and cloudy texture to it. It’s a beautiful thing.” And possibly the only viscous and cloudy thing that’s beautiful.
New Review: Au Cheval
New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics’ recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website. Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. Au Cheval previously was not listed. The review appears in the October issue, on newsstands now.
Au Cheval (800 W. Randolph St., 312-929-4580). American.
★★ (very good)
$$ ($30–$39 per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
Abandon your diet and plunge fork-first into the unapologetically heavy grub at Brendan Sodikoff’s chic diner-style charmer. Servers—arguably the city’s best—ably guide your meal, suggesting craft brews to complement the downright droolworthy fried bologna sandwich or garlicky mashed potatoes to supplement the juiciest pork porterhouse imaginable. Shuck previous notions of liver or foie gras and indulge in the luxurious versions here (both are paired with fantabulous Texas toast). Just want a cheeseburger? The double- or triple-pattied beauties are nothing to scoff at, and you may as well go for broke and add a fried egg on top.
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
Le Café (4655 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-878-2233), a bakery and café in Lincoln Square that opened a week ago, makes all its own pastries daily, including items such as lemon meringue tart, chocolate espresso tart, raspberry white mousse cake, and beignets like the powdered-sugar-dusted New Orleans originals. Danielle Papakanelou, a French Pastry School grad, starts the baking at 4 a.m., and then the café opens at 8, serving breakfast and lunch until 9 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on weekends. “If you want eggs for dinner, you can have eggs for dinner,” Papakanelou says. Somehow, it’s not that hard to find places that will serve you breakfast at dinnertime, but is there any place that serves dinner food at breakfast?
“If there were only turnips and potatoes in the world, someone would complain that plants grow the wrong way.” —Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), German scientist, satirist, and Anglophile
This Item Was Brought to You by the Letter T and the Number 3
Three tea shops in the Canadian-based chain DavidsTea are scheduled to open here this fall, beginning with a Bucktown location (1645 N. Damen Ave., no phone yet) on October 13 and followed by Lake View and Lincoln Park stores. The shops stock 120 types of loose-leaf tea, including traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Indian varieties; South American mate; and funky blends such as Read My Lips, with chocolate, mint, and candied red lips on a black tea base, and Mother’s Little Helper, with valerian root, peppermint, lemongrass, rosehips, hibiscus, and chamomile flowers. “We want you to make tea at home. We want to show you how it’s amazing in the morning, after the gym, in the evening,” says David Segal, a cofounder and eponym of the business. Morning and evening, sure, but we’re sticking with water after the gym for now.
- No shame in ordering a burger from the barbecue joint Barn & Company.
- Pollack struggles to share at BellyQ.
- Too much of a good thing can be wonderful at Big Jones.
Follow Pollack on Twitter.
Things to Do
- Get a midday sugar fix at Magnolia Bakery (Block 37 Shops, 108 N. State St., 312-346-7777), when the sweetshop celebrates its first anniversary with $1 chocolate and vanilla cupcakes (regularly $3) from 12 noon to 2 p.m. on October 1.
- Stroll down memory lane (or try something new, depending on your age) at Markethouse Restaurant and Bar (611 N. Fairbanks Ct., 312-224-2200), where the chef Scott Walton is bringing back the iconic TV dinner on Sunday nights from 5 to 10 p.m. Three-course dinners will cost $30 and focus on a different decade each month, kicking off with a 1950s theme in October, serving a relish tray with a cheese ball; turkey with sweet potatoes, stuffing, peas, and gravy; and baked Alaska. Classic cocktails ($7) will flow, and the restaurant will project The Twilight Zone and I Love Lucy for atmosphere.
- Do good by chowing down at the Common Threads Associate Board Cook-Off at Fulton’s on the River (315 N. LaSalle St., 312-822-0100). The event is an annual chef showcase where heavy hitters such as Bill Kim (BellyQ, Belly Shack, UrbanBelly) and Sarah Grueneberg (Spiaggia) go head-to-head to create the crowd’s favorite cookout-themed dish. Proceeds from the $95 tickets benefit the children’s nutrition charity Common Threads.
- Grab a copy of Made With Love: The Meals On Wheels Family Cookbook, a recipe compilation that raises funds for Meals On Wheels and is edited by the organization’s CEO, Enid Borden. The new book features dishes near and dear to the hearts of personalities such as Mario Batali, Joan Rivers, and Dish’s own Penny Pollack—who contributed the recipe for her famous (in the Chicago magazine office, at least) mandelbrodt.
- La Sirena Clandestina (954 W. Fulton Market, 312-226-5300), the new venture from the chef John Manion (Mas, Branch 27), opens Monday.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Jeffrey Hedin left Noble Square’s Belgian bistro Leopold earlier this month to rejoin his former colleague Jan Rickerl, now on Stephanie Izard’s team. Hedin and Aaron Thebault are overseeing the kitchen at Girl & the Goat while Izard and Rickerl get the diner Little Goat up and running. . . . The Japanese seafood project from Jason Chan (Urban Union) and B.K. Park (Arami) has acquired an address: 2638 North Lincoln Avenue, the former Merló la Salumería space. They plan to announce a name and an opening date after a monthlong food research trip to New York, Los Angeles, and Asia. . . . Arun Sampanthavivat (Arun’s) now plans a winter soft opening for Thai Town Center, the Thai community center he’s spearheading, with a restaurant, spa, and roof garden, among other things. He plans a grand-opening celebration for next September to coincide with a visit from the crown princess of Thailand. Oh, and he also plans to publish a cookbook titled Ten Perfections of the Buddha. . . . Lake View’s Chizakaya quietly closed its doors last weekend. . . . The fledgling South Looper Alain’s was forced to close temporarily after being served with an eviction notice last weekend. Things will be up and running again by Monday.