Bummer of the Week
Erba (4520 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-989-4200), a rustic Italian spot in Lincoln Square that made Chicago magazine’s 2007 list of best new restaurants, will close on September 13th, according to Robert Butterfield Jr., the owner. "It’s a lack of business," said Alan Pirhofer, Erba’s chef. "People are being more cautious with their money. The neighborhood is changing." As for Pirhofer’s future, he’s staying positive. "I’m going to land somewhere," he says. "Instead of lemons, I am going to make limoncello." Butterfield plans to reopen the space in late September with a menu of "affordable" American comfort food.
Off the Off-Ramp
Hot Woks Cool Sushi (3930 N. Pulaski Rd.; 773-282-1818), a tiny new BYO in Irving Park, has an offbeat backstory. "I always promised myself that we would never do a restaurant," says Lois Lee, who grew up in a restaurant family (Chef Shangri La in the west suburbs). "But then we looked at the space because my husband got off on the Irving Park exit to go to a client." The chef, Woranat "Noom" Wathakeyanon (Sushi Wabi, Tank), loves to put cream cheese in spring rolls, and Lee puts Italian sausage—rather than fried pork—into her egg rolls. "We try to do things a little different," Lee says. Another example: Lee named all the rooms in the restaurant—"To make it sound bigger," she explains.
"When you die, if you get a choice between going to regular heaven or pie heaven, choose pie heaven. It might be a trick, but if it’s not, mmmmmmmm, boy."-Jack Handey (b. 1949), American humorist
A Fistful of Euros
In light of the news that Martial Noguier was leaving his post as executive chef at One Sixtyblue (1400 W. Randolph St.; 312-850-0303) on September 6th to take over at Café des Architectes (Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, 20 E. Chestnut St.; 312-324-4063) on October 1st, we wondered just how big of a package Noguier got. The Paris native has been offered slews of chef positions over the years, but always asked for more than anyone would give him, so he could stay put at One Sixtyblue. Sounds like the Sofitel dug into the deep pockets of Accor Hospitality, its international owner. "For Sofitel, food is a very important part of the experience," says Herman Klok, the hotel’s manager, who hired Noguier after a five-month chef search. "We pay great attention to rituals such as the bread, wine, cheese, and patisseries. We are very excited to have a talented chef who knows what Chicagoans like." Just how excited, Herman? . . . Meanwhile, One Sixtyblue already has several candidates to fill Noguier’s slot, says David Zadikoff, the CEO of Cornerstone Restaurant Group.
If it seems like you’ve been waiting for a ridiculously long time for Olo (1152 W. Randolph St.; 312-733-0573), the Mediterranean restaurant from the Isabella’s Estiatorio folks, it’s not your imagination. "I put the brakes on it a little bit because of the economy and all that fun stuff," says Dean Georgelos, a partner. "My partner [Sean Eastwood] and I are now in a comfortable position to open it. There was no benefit to open Olo to the detriment of Isabella’s; we didn’t want to spread ourselves too thin." With construction nearly complete, Eastwood says, Olo will bow in late fall. Sigh. FYI: Olo’s chef de cuisine, Sylvain Montesseur, worked with Nancy Oakes at San Francisco’s beloved Boulevard and spent the past year in Eastwood’s kitchen at Isabella’s.
Might Want to Rethink That Slogan, Fellas
"If you don’t like our pizza, go to hell." -The motto of Purgatory Pizza (3415 N. Clark St.; 773-975-6677), Christopher Peckat’s Dante-influenced Wrigleyville spot
"In spring 2007, someone gave us a copy of The Secret, an inspirational movie about positive thinking. We felt good after watching it and decided to watch it every day for a month. That stretched into 90 days. Somewhere along in the Secret marathon, we were driving to the city to go to a raw food restaurant. [My wife and partner] Kathy said, ‘I wish there was some place closer.’ I said we should just open up our own place. A really long pause in the car. We decided to test the concept in the movie. We wrote on a piece of paper: ‘In October of 2007, we opened Borrowed Earth Café,’ taped it to our bathroom mirror, and looked at it every day. A couple of months later, we lost our jobs. We trusted that this was moving us toward that goal of opening the restaurant. In October 2007, we had the keys to the building that now holds our restaurant." –Danny Living, partner at Borrowed Earth Café (970 Warren Ave., Downers Grove; 630-795-1729), a 31-seat raw-food restaurant that opened last December. Its Web site lists the restaurant’s hours as "Monday: 3:57 p.m. to 9:03 p.m.; Tuesday-Saturday: 10:57 a.m. to 9:03 p.m.").
Free Things to Do
- Buy an entrée at Sweet Baby Ray’s (800 E. Higgins Rd., Elk Grove Village; 847-437-9555) on a Tuesday night and your kid eats free. (Or, if you don’t mind ponying up $17, go on a Wednesday for all-you-can-eat baby back ribs.)
- To celebrate its 62nd anniversary on August 16th, River Shannon (425 W. Armitage Ave.; 312-944-5087) is offering, among other things, free hot dogs. Attendees at the sidewalk celebration are also encouraged to "take the mic and share a good River Shannon story with the crowd."
- Epicurious.com is handing out eco-friendly tote bags and reusable recipe cards on August 14th at Daley Plaza market (Dearborn and Washington Sts.).
- Every week, Uncommon Ground (1401 W. Devon Ave.; 773-465-9801) has a free tasting table and live music in the parking lot during its "Farmer Fridays" event from 4 to 8 p.m.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
On August 16th, the Cheng family, owners of Sun Wah BBQ (1134 W. Argyle St.; 773-769-1254), in conjunction with the Chicago Foodways Roundtable, host "Chinese Barbecue Demystified," a $20 tasting, tour, and lesson. Call 847-432-8255 for reservations. . . . On August 18th, Mon Ami Gabi (2300 N. Lincoln Park West, 773-348-8886; 260 Oakbrook Ctr., Oak Brook, 630-472-1900) hosts a tasting of 25 French wines for $25. Twenty-five wines? Feel free to barf on their sidewalk afterward. . . . A mobile wood-burning Neapolitan pizza oven that comes to your backyard? Sign us up. . . . Carlucci (1801 Butterfield Rd., Downers Grove; 630-512-0990) hosts a three-course fish fry every Friday that sounds like a good deal: For $50 a couple, you get all kinds of seafood plus a bottle of wine. . . . And we end on a sad note: Abby Mandel, the cookbook writer, chef, and founder of the Chicago’s Green City Market, has died. Funeral services will be 1 p.m. Friday, August 15th, at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe. Our condolences to her family and friends.