From Powerhouse to Prairie

It’s been a good month for Prairie Grass Cafe (601 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook; 847-205-4433). On the heels of its burger being anointed Chicago’s best, now PGC has announced it will spawn Prairie Fire, another all-American outpost in the old Powerhouse space in the West Loop (215 N. Clinton St.) “We’re going to do some of our signature stuff like the shepherd’s pie and the house-made sausages,” says George Bumbaris, chef-partner. “And the burger. We’ve had a huge amount of people come in for the burger. Now we don’t have to open a burger joint.” Bumbaris and Sarah Stegner, his co-chef/partner, also plan to introduce some new creations and will split time at both places; turns out the old friends always intended to open another spot. “We took our time and now we’ve found the right space,” says Bumbaris. “We have a good landlord there who is fair with us, and it’s a beautifully built-out restaurant.” If all goes as planned, after a remodel, the 150-seat restaurant will open in November.

We’ve Been Patient, Sergio

Sergio Di Sapio is finally about to open the long-awaited Ukie Village offshoot of Tango Sur, his popular Southport BYO: Folklore Argentine Grill (2100 W. Division St.). “We don’t have the exact date but are getting close to opening up at the end of September,” says Di Sapio, who has been with Tango Sur since it unveiled as a restaurant in 1996. Expect the same meaty menu and late hours at the 100-seat Folklore—with one exception: an Argentinean wine list.


“Fool! Don’t you see now that I could have poisoned you a hundred times had I been able to live without you.” –Cleopatra (69-30 B.C.), Egyptian queen

Five Questions for Leo Suarez

Suarez is opening Macondo Colombian Coffee & Empanadas (2965 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-698-6867), a 20-seat fast-casual spot in the old Las Tablas space. Suarez’s family owns Las Tablas, the popular Colombian restaurant now located at 2942 North Lincoln Avenue and at 4920 West Irving Park Road.

D: Your family’s relationship to empanadas goes way back, right?
LS: My grandma was from a small town in central Colombia. Every morning she would make 500 to 600 empanadas, and my dad would go sell them where 18-wheeler trucks would make a pit stop. My dad learned from his mother and from my mom’s mom. At one point he was the head chef at the largest open coal mine in the world, in the province of La Guajira.

D: How many different empanadas will you offer?
LS: We will have eight on the menu and anywhere from two to four extra ones rotated in by the month. For $2.50, instead of one big one, you will get two small ones. They taste better that way and are better for sharing.  

D: Anything else on the food front?
LS:Sides like sweet plantains, rice and beans, fried yuca. Chorizo con arepa. Traditional desserts such as coconut flan, passion fruit mousse, and rice pudding. And as time goes by, we will be adding little Colombian tapas.

D: Where does coffee come in?
LS: We do fair trade Colombian coffee. We are the only restaurant in Chicago that serves Juan Valdez. We are also going to feature an organic espresso and a line of coffee beans by the pound sourced from different micro regions throughout Colombia. We want to educate people about the range of coffee.

D: Do Chicagoans love empanadas in the same way Colombians do?
LS: Between the last two Tastes of Chicago, we sold over 100,000 empanadas. The first year we had a team of 12 ladies making empanadas 12 hours every day and we still sold out. That’s what sparked the idea for Macondo.

So long, Tallulah

Stefan Quaisser, a veteran of the Drake Hotel and the new owner of Tallulah (4539 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-942-7585), plans to close the Lincoln Square space on September 26th so he can rebrand and reopen as LM Le Restaurant, a contemporary French spot. Quaisser has brought in Bradford Phillips (Ristorante We, Blackbird), who will continue with Tallulah’s menu for the next month.

Game. Set. Match.

Just as he did last year, Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia, Terzo Piano) will open Wine Bar Foods, a temporary wine bar/restaurant at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York from August 31st through Sept 13th. Actually, he will open two. “Things will be made to order,” says Mantuano of his 40-seat spot at the U.S. Tennis Center. “Five wines by the glass and five menu items all from our book, Wine Bar Food.”

Things to Do

  1. Donate $30 to Children’s Memorial Hospital on August 30th at The Italian Village (71 W. Monroe St.) and enjoy a wine tasting, a buffet, street performers, face painting for the kids (or you, if you’re so inclined), and maybe even get a ride in one of the 60 Ferraris on hand. Call 312-332-7005 for reservations.
  2. Celebrate National Cheese Pizza Day (no, we didn’t know, either) on September 5th with a $5 stone-oven Margherita pizza at Quartino (626 N. State St.; 312-698-5000) for lunch.
  3. If you can prove your name is David, go to Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que Restaurant on August 30th and get a free entrée worth up to $15. If your middle name is David, your entrée is half-price.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

Chilam Balam (3023 N. Broadway, 773-296-6901), a Mexican BYO from Chuy Valencia (a Rick Bayless disciple) and Soraya Rendon, opens on August 28th. has posted the opening menu. . . . The Green Chicago Restaurant Co-Op recently launched Guaranteed Green, a program that IDs and certifies environmentally friendly restaurants. . . . A second location of Libertyville’s Wildberry Pancakes & Cafe is under construction; this one is in the old Davis Street Fishmarket space in Schaumburg (1383 N. Meacham Rd.) and is slated for this fall. . . . Charter One is partnering with the band Widespread Panic to collect food and monetary donations for the Greater Chicago Food Depository at the band’s upcoming performances at the Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island on September 1st and 2nd. . . . Isaac Holzwarth, the former chef of Chaise Lounge, has landed at Jewell Events Catering, which is behind the two restaurants opening at the Civic Opera House at the end of September: Florian Opera Bistro and The Sarah and Peer Pedersen Room.