She Hearts Art

Ashley Galliart, co-owner of the brand-new Luscious Layers Bakery (2315 N. Damen Ave.; 773-661-1335), has custom-made everything from a Fender Stratocaster–inspired cake for the actor Steven Seagal to a Champagne wedding cake that included one gluten-free tier for the bride. “I went to school for a fine arts degree in textile design,” says Galliart, who rented space for personal orders before opening Luscious on March 22nd. “My husband is a graphic designer, so we make a computer drawing of every wedding cake. That way the bride and groom can see what it’s going to look like.” A rotating array of cupcakes, cookies, and brownies fills the shop’s display case, but custom orders dominate Galliart’s business. Which is apparently a good thing: “I can’t cook to save my life,” she says. “But I can bake because it’s very specific.”


“Explaining something sensible to Lord Killanin is akin to explaining something to a cauliflower. The advantage of the cauliflower is that if all else fails, you can always cover it with melted cheese and eat it.” –William E. Simon (1927-2000), former U.S. secretary of the treasury

A Conversation with Jim August

The creative former chef/owner of Café le Coq has landed at Stretch Bar & Grill (3485 N. Clark St.; 773-755-3980), a new 100-seat spot in Wrigleyville where he plays with bar-food staples, and makes everything from scratch.

D: How did this partnership come about?
JA: I worked with NoChance Productions [owners of Stretch] on Cortland’s Garage. They remodeled the whole bar that used to be Tryst, a little bar that was trying to be trendy. They asked me to come up with a menu. It will go into effect next week.

D: How will it be different from every other bar menu in Wrigleyville?
JA: Our wings are a little bit different. Instead of deep-frying, we season them and roast them in the oven. Then we toss them in one of four different sauces that I came up with.

D: Which are?
JA: A Jack Daniel’s/chipotle smoky BBQ . . . There’s a Thai ginger BBQ that has peanut and coconut milk . . . a “Hurt Me Habanero” sauce with a mango base . . . And the last one, I take all the elements of the classic Buffalo wing and combine that into a sauce. So instead of a hot sauce that you dip, like a ranch/blue cheese, and celery, it’s all in the sauce.  

D: What else?
JA: I do a mac-and-cheese fritter like an arancini, double panko-crusted. All the melted cheese and bacon are inside. You crack it open and it’s all runny with Cheddar cheese sauce. Also, a triple-decker grilled cheese sandwich. And I do something that I loved as a kid: I split open a hot dog, stuff it with Cheddar, and wrap it with bacon. A francheezie. Served on a pretzel roll.

D: Desserts must be fun.
JA: One that I am working on is a Twinkie truffle. I take Twinkies and cut them into truffle-size bits, freeze them, then dip them in chocolate. They look like truffles but the center is a Twinkie. I use real Twinkies. No one can make a Twinkie better than the Twinkie people, so why bother?

Zak of All Trades

Marc Stein is no longer the chef at Zak’s Place (112 S. Washington St., Hinsdale; 630-323-9257), Yamandu Perez’s ambitious year-and-a-half-old spot in the western suburbs. “I am taking over the whole menu,” says Perez. “And I’m very aggressive about changing things. It’s still a seafood/steak restaurant but a lot more seasonal. We’re going to have more fun.” Not sure if it’s fun or not, but Perez touts the seared foie gras with caramelized bananas and pineapple-mango sauce, a chocolate-braised short rib with white truffle orzo, and a pan-roasted scallop with squid ink tagliatelle and saffron cream sauce.

Most Popular Dish

“We do a French lamb stew, which is really a navarin of lamb. We stir-fry potatoes, carrots, turnips, and green beans and we pour the stew over the top of the vegetables. So it’s like a meal all in one beautiful high-sided dish. We can’t make it quick enough.” –John Winslow, the owner of Bananas Foster Café (1147 W. Granville Ave.; 773-262-9855), a charming 32-seat Edgewater café. (How charming? “The culinary and front-of-the-house team really get on, which is quite extraordinary,” says Winslow. “They thank each other! Can you imagine chefs thanking servers and vice versa?”)

Cheap Things to Do

  1. Get a free fried (or grilled) chicken sandwich on April 2nd at Pollo Campero (2730 N. Narragansett Ave., 773-622-6657; 4830 N. Pulaski Rd., 773-282-1966), while supplies last.
  2. Snag a hot dog for $1 any time between April 6th and April 10th at America’s Dog (four area locations).
  3. Test taste more than 50 flavors of Jelly Bellies on April 4th at Candyality (3425 N. Southport Ave.; 773-472-7800), which is hosting a “Jelly Belly Trunk Show” from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  4. Check out’s list of the top ten sushi places in America. Wicker Park’s Mirai Sushi (2020 W. Division St.; 773-862-8500) cracks the roster, which seems a solid choice.   
  5. Throughout April, get a half-pound prime burger on a brioche bun with hand-cut fries at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (25 E. Ohio St.; 312-329-9463) for $6.  

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Four openings in the next few days to report: Branch 27 (1371 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-850-2700), an American bistro with Bob Zrenner (X/O, Graze) in the kitchen, on April 1st; Taxim (1558 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-252-1558), a 73-seat Greek/Asia Minor restaurant in Bucktown, on April 2nd; Abigail’s (493 Roger Williams St., Highland Park; 847-849-1009), a 60-seat farm-to-plate American bistro near Ravinia Park, on April 3rd; and Birchwood Kitchen (2211 W. North Ave.; 773-276-2100), a Bucktown artisan sandwich shop, on April 6th. . . . Already open is Q2, an upscale lounge across the hall from Quince (1625 N. Hinman Ave., Evanston; 847-570-8400), with a menu designed by Quince’s exec chef, Mark Hannon. The bad news: Hannon plans to leave this month, to go work at a restaurant in Perth, Australia. . . . Marigold (4832 N. Broadway; 773-293-4653) has launched a “naanwich” menu that includes chicken tikka, lamb vindaloo, and duck leg dum, all served with pappadum chips. . . . Zonca’ed!: Ristorante Al Teatro (1227 W. 18th St.; 312-379-3984) hasn’t even opened yet, and its chef, Gianni Zonca, has already quit. . . . Oh, and Powerhouse (215 N. Clinton St.), a onetime mighty spot in the West Loop, quietly closed last week.