The Timeless Allure of the Bistro

Joseph Calabrese (owner of Zia’s Trattoria and veteran of Ambria and Spiaggia) has gone French at Café Touché (6731 N. Northwest Hwy.; 773-775-0909), a block from Zia’s. Calabrese describes the 80-seat spot—designed by his wife—as “a cross between a café in Paris and a French Quarter look in New Orleans.” The menu is straight-up classic bistro—escargots, steak frites, Alsatian onion tart, pâté maison—but with a careful attention to detail. The onion soup features real Comté du Gruyère, the salad Lyonnaise has Nueske applewood bacon, and desserts come from Judy Contino (Bittersweet). So far, Edison Park seems to love the place; bringing in veteran GM David Ligon (Trio, Va Pensiero) to run the front of the house was a masterstroke.

A Cute Story With Legs. And Arms

“We met at Germanfest in Logan Square,” says Erica Feldkamp of her partner at The Poison Cup (1128 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-935-1325), John Witte. “There’s part of a German song where you link arms with the person next to you and I linked arms with him and we’ve been linked ever since.” In the meantime, the pair opened their boutique wine/art shop in a small Lincoln Park space, where Feldkamp says they sell wines “that are off-the-beaten-path, the gems at knockout prices, the ones that sing.” The shop also hosts fun-sounding events like blind wine tastings in which singles compete with other singles. You’d have to be a dud not to meet someone. FYI: Feldkamp and Witte plan to get married in late August in Sonoma and spend their honeymoon doing “wine crushes.” (You pick the grapes; you crush them.)


“Veal is a very young beef and, like a very young girlfriend, it’s cute but boring and expensive.” –P.J. O’Rourke (b. 1947), American writer

Even Bigger Jones

Paul Fehribach, who has been working without a sous-chef at Big Jones (5347 N. Clark St.; 773-275-5725) since last fall, has landed Corey Fuller, an alum of Alinea. "We are collaborating. We’re pushing the envelope a little more than we wanted to in the beginning,” says Fehribach. “I’m finding old dishes that we want to reinvent and he tosses the ideas at me.” For example, the “inverted” country-fried steak, a grilled Niman Ranch New York strip with a deep-fried mashed potato crust and red wine demi-glace. “We are not looking to be avant-garde,” Fehribach says.“But like [Heston] Blumenthal at Fat Duck, [Fuller] takes old recipes and turns them into space-age creations.” Expect Big Jones to close for a few days around Labor Day and reopen with the new menu.

Drunken Goat in 91 Words

“It’ll be very casual. Similar to Bristol and Publican. All different sizes of plates, meant to share. We’re working with local farmers to get in whole animals. A charcuterie and sausage program . . . a large cheese program . . . and I would like to do a complete in-house bread program. . . . We’ll try to represent all the local breweries and will have a global beer list. And we will have Drunken Goat wine. I went out to Walla Walla, Washington to make my own house wine.” –Stephanie Izard (Scylla, Top Chef), who plans to open the 130-seat Drunken Goat (809-813 W. Randolph St.) in an old West Loop warehouse early next year

Gelato Alert

Paciugo, a fast-growing Dallas-based gelato chain with 43 cafés in the U.S. and Mexico (including one in west suburban Forest Park), plans to expand to Lake View (3241 N. Broadway) at the end of August. “On any given day we will have 32 flavors,” says Ani Poddar, the manager. “The whole palette has 220 flavors: bubble gum, peppermint, Mediterranean sea salt caramel, strawberry balsamic vinegar sorbetto. We will be very big on coffee beverages and hot chocolate blended with gelato or poured over gelato.”

Things to Do

  1. Go to Gibsons Rosemont (5464 N. River Rd., Rosemont; 847-928-9900) between August 13th and 16th and get soup or salad, double-baked potato, and four mini filet mignons, each with a different prep (blue cheese, horseradish, peppercorns, and Oscar-style [asparagus, crab, and béarnaise]) for $25.
  2. Take a barbecue grilling class on the patio of Smoke Daddy (1804 W. Division St.; 773-772-6656) on August 18th at 8 p.m. Your $30 also includes a half-slab of baby backs, roasted peppers, grilled steak fries, two Coronas, a bottle of Smoke Daddy sauce, and all the knowledge you can soak up.
  3. Celebrate Armenian Fest on August 15th and 16th at St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church (6700 W. Diversey Ave.): live music, dancing, stuff for the kids, all kinds of homemade pastries and breads, and charcoal-grilled meats cooked outside. Admission is free, the food is cheap, and all proceeds go to St. Gregory.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Mista, an organic thin-crust pizza joint in Lake View (2931 N. Broadway; 773-698-6688) will launch a similar BYO outpost in Andersonville (5351 N. Clark St.; 773-506-1500) in mid-August. “We’re looking to do a third one in the Loop,” says Mark Davino, the owner. . . . What once was Riques is now Rolis Restaurant (5004 N. Sheridan Rd.; 773-728-6200), a 60-seat Mexican BYO where virtually everything is made in-house. . . . Josh Soth, who formerly owned an Italian deli in St. Joseph, Michigan, has been named the chef de cuisine at Zak’s Place (112 S. Washington St., Hinsdale; 630-323-9257). . . . The Cedar Hotel (1112-1114 N. State St.; 312-944-1112), proud owner of one of Chicago’s most storied outdoor patios, has opened in the Gold Coast.