Ryan McCaskey
In May 2008 Kevin Shikami had an epiphany: He didn’t want to be a chef anymore. Not at Shikago; not anywhere. Last we heard, he was traipsing around Vietnam with the missus. Usually when a talented, high-profile chef jumps ship, it’s the beginning of the end for a restaurant—but in this case, Shikago’s owner and Kevin’s brother, Alan Shikami, had his own epiphany. With his brother’s approval, he brought in Ryan McCaskey (Vivere, Rushmore), who changed the Pan-Asian menu to contemporary American and began serving terrific dishes such as Pacific wild salmon with cauliflower purée and Israeli couscous. The future looks bright, and a new name is in the works. Thank God. 190 S. LaSalle St.; 312-781-7300. –Penny Pollack


Photography: Kendall Karmanian



Jamaica Jamaica

With winter about to make its move, this Evanston newcomer offers the ideal refuge. Cozy yet stylish, with a welcoming staff and reggae beat, it’s got the laid-back island vibe down pat. Chalk this up to the owner and Negril native Tony Levy, who got his start helping his mom cook for a family of 11 kids. Instead of getting soured on saucepans, he couldn’t wait to open his own restaurant and launched Good To Go Jamaican Cuisine on Howard Street in 2003. At Jamaica Jamaica, Evanstonians can feast on smoky, tender hunks of jerk chicken ($12) and crackly-skinned, sweet-fleshed jerk pork ($14) punched up with a feisty homemade sauce. There’s also humble, but splendid, flavor-soaked stew beef and homey-tasting, fall-apart-tender brown stew chicken. Rounding out the menu are oxtails, curried chicken and goat, a handful of fish, and more splurgy shrimp dishes including one bathed in a delectably mellow coconut-scented sauce ($16). All entrées share a plate with kidney-bean-dotted rice, strips of sautéed sweet plantain, and a steamed cabbage and carrot duo. For sipping, there’s a wealth of slushy, fruit-laden smoothies, fresh veggie combos, and rum cocktails. With names like Paradise Punch and Island Breeze, who can resist? 1512 Sherman Ave., Evanston; 847-328-1000. –Jill Rohde




Matt Fisher may hold the record for the fastest restaurant turnaround. The owner of Lincoln Square’s Tallulah signed a deal on the former Flapjaws space in the Gold Coast, which he overhauled completely, renamed Eve, and reopened as a sleek 105-seat contemporary restaurant—all within eight weeks. “The owner just didn’t want to own the place anymore, so I made him an offer,” explains Fisher. “He wanted it done quickly and I accommodated.” Chef Troy Graves, who will split his time between Tallulah and Eve, says the latter’s menu will be “just a little bit more sophisticated”: e.g., yellowtail tartare with charred poblano, pickled red onion, mint, and passion fruit yogurt ($13). 840 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-266-3383. –Jeff Ruby



Farmerie 58
As a boy in Alabama, Billy Alexander had a choice between picking potatoes on a farm or working in the family restaurant. “It gets stinky hanging out next to rotten potatoes in the heat all day,” he recalls. Not surprisingly, Alexander’s vocation wasn’t found in sorting spuds; now, on his contemporary American menu at Farmerie 58, he avenges those odiferous afternoons on the farm, slicing and frying the taters for truffle fries or roasting and smashing them for roasted garlic crushed potatoes. Guess revenge is a dish best served hot. 58 E. Ontario St.; 312-440-1818. –Justine Gregory


Photograph: Chris Lake