Nothing’s Stronger than Plutonium

Jacky’s on Prairie (2545 Prairie Ave., Evanston; 847-733-0899), slated to open in the old Jacky’s Bistro space on October 12th, is an homage to Jacky Pluton’s popular French spot. “It will reflect what Jacky was at the beginning,” says Jonadab Silva, the executive chef. “There is such recognition of the building.” Silva, who will team up with David Lipschutz, also his boss at Evanston’s Blind Faith Café, promises contemporary French cuisine (i.e., an honest bouillabaisse shares the menu with global creations such as lobster carpaccio with a lemongrass glaze), nearly 200 wines, and a minimal renovation of the 100-seat restaurant. Says Silva: “The space will always be Jacky’s.”


“I make enemies deliberately. They are the sauce piquante to my dish of life.” –Elsa Maxwell (1883-1963), American columnist/hostess    

Eddie Lakin: Who He Is and What He Plans to Do

“I’m a restaurant guy. I grew up in Buffalo Grove. Went to CHIC [Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago] in the early ’90s. Was an opening line cook at Tru. I worked in restaurants in Barcelona and Bologna. I was laid off in the fall, and I’ve been casting about for a good opportunity. The concept [Edzo’s Burger Shop, 1571 Sherman Ave., Evanston; 847-864-3396, opening in September] is my personal tribute to Chicago hot-dog stand food. We are going to grind our own beef every day and do two different kinds of burgers: a thick burger on the chargrill and a four-ounce burger on the griddle that we smash thin with a grill press. We’ll do standard Chicago hot dogs. We will hand-dip corn dogs in a fresh batter. Beer-battered onion rings to order. Hand-dipped milkshakes from one of those old-fashioned spindle milkshake machines. We’re doing it low-budget, so embracing the dive/joint look. We want it to have a well-worn, it’s-been-there-for-20-years kind of look. . . . Edzo is me. It’s a nickname that I never liked. But I liked it as the name of the restaurant.”

Fresh, Indeed

Abuelo’s Mexican Grill (2007 S. Damen Ave.; 312-733-0329), a new 32-seat BYO in Heart of Chicago, sounds charming. The owner, Angel Gomez, who also runs a construction company, decked out his restaurant with National Geographic covers, circa 1947. “What I want is for the people to feel that this is for all kinds of different cultures, not just Mexican,” says Gomez. Then again, his menu is pure Mexicana: fresh tilapia tacos with a secret salsa, arrachera asada marinated for an entire day, homemade cookies, and the like. We’re not sure how we feel about this, but Abuelo’s puts basil and lime in the water—“to make it taste fresh,” says Gomez.

Meat Attack!

El Souk (808 N. State St.; 312-751-8600), a tiny Middle Eastern counter-service restaurant with artwork straight from Morocco, opened August 10th across from Loyola University. The menu sounds pretty straightforward—think falafel, tabbouleh, shawarma, baklava—but the item we can really get behind is the combo plate, either three or four choices of meat, priced at $11 and $13, respectively. “If you order four meats, the plate weighs about 4 pounds,” says Nadiya Bocheva, the manager.

Sign of the Times

What once was Rockstar Dogs (350 W. Armitage Ave.), Dion Antic’s saucy (and pricey) rock-and-roll themed spot, is now The Dog Joint (773-687-9573), an old-school Chicago hot-dog spot open into the wee hours. “I don’t know what they were doing but we are doing well,” says Jerry Lullo, who remodeled the space. Lullo also boasts about his homemade Italian beef made fresh daily, and three-way fries with Cheddar, sour cream, and bacon bits. “If you eat that you will have to lay down and take a nap,” he says. But more important, he brought the price of hot dogs back to normal levels—dog, fries, and drink are $5. “I’m in a college area here,” he says. “These kids don’t have any money.”

Glass Houses and All That

Smack-dab in the middle of Bar Novo (Renaissance Hotel; 1 W. Wacker Dr.), a soon-to-open spot in the old lobby bar, is an interactive chef station behind a glass wall. Within those walls, you can watch the crew make fun small plates, such as Kobe sliders topped with wasabi Cheddar and miso-carmelized onions, or desserts such as deconstructed S’mores. “The space needed an update,” says Matt Ochse, the director of restaurants. “The Renaissance prides itself on being up-to-the-minute and cutting edge in all things they do.” ETA: October 1st grand opening.

Links to Do

  1. Look into Beyond the Shaker, a locally based company that offers a line of chef-crafted, mostly organic gourmet salt blends, such as Herb Garden Blend, Hawaiian Black Lava, Bolivian Rose, and other variations that sound like types of pot.
  2. Grab the September issue of Chicago magazine, which includes our list of the 30 favorite burgers in town, then vote for your favorite. And if you’re not all burgered out, read about what all this burger-eating did to Ruby’s brain.
  3. Witness the foot-wide hot dog.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Larry Epstein, the owner of Eppy’s Deli (162 N. Franklin St.; 312-345-7771), plans to open new locations in Streeterville and in the South Loop. (Epstein recently closed the Ontario Eppy’s following a lease ending.) . . . Monticchio (4882 N. Clark St.), a brash Neapolitan pizza place that opened last fall on an unlikely stretch of Uptown, may have been ahead of the curve. It recently closed. . . . Nana (3267 S. Halsted St.; 312-929-2486), an intriguing organic breakfast/lunch spot (banana hemp pancakes?) in Bridgeport, opens on August 24th. . . . The Grotto (3011 Butterfield Rd., Oak Brook; 630-571-5700), an all-American State Street mainstay from 2002 to 2008, now exists in a 180-seat space in the Promenade Shopping Center. Abraham Aguirre (Harry Caray’s) is the chef. . . . Pastoral, the artisan food shop with locations in Lake View and The Loop, plans to open a massive third outpost this October in the French Market (131 N. Clinton St.), the anchor of a 100,000-square-foot retail and restaurant development in Ogilvie Transportation Center. Makes us wish we took the Metra more often.