Thai One On

Arun Sampanthavivat, the chef at the renowned upscale-Thai restaurant Arun’s, is teaming up with two business partners, the city of Chicago, and Thai investors to build Thai Town Center (4461 N. Pulaski Rd.), a kind of Thai community center that will feature a restaurant with Arun’s cuisine. “It will be a food center that will offer four regional [cooking styles] of Thailand,” he says. “It will be almost like a tapas-type style.” The project is in its earliest phase, so details are sketchy, but Arun foresees 175 to 200 seats and a market selling packaged spices and sauces as well as ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat meals. A (very) rough estimate predicts a late summer or early fall 2011 opening. Great idea to create a place for the ethnic community—the Thai that binds.



“The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809–1894), American physician and author


Pit Masters of the Universe

The Chicago barbecue scene, already smoking-hot, has developed its own gravity, drawing in talent from elsewhere. Chicago Q (1160 N. Dearborn St.; 312-642-1160), which plans to open Labor Day weekend, has announced that its pit master will be Lee Ann Whippen, a 14-year veteran of the competitive barbecue circuit who appeared on the TLC show BBQ Pitmasters and runs Wood Chick’s BBQ in Chesapeake, Virginia. (Whippen also competes in the show’s second series, premiering tomorrow.) Whippen says Chicago Q’s ’cue will be dry-rubbed, with several regions’ styles of sauce available on the side. Among the wood in the pit will be sugar maple for fish, cherry and white oak for brisket, and applewood for chicken and ribs—baby backs and St. Louis spare ribs, specifically, which Whippen will prepare both in a standard style and in a limited-quantity competition style. “Everything is unique,” she says. “We have been working for over a month on the menu just trying to create that uniqueness.” A bold claim, considering barbecue is everywhere.


Stax Bax Flapjax

“Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day,” says Spiro Tsaldaris, the owner of Stax Café (1401 W. Taylor St.; 312-733-9871), a new 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. spot in Little Italy. “Stax,” as in “stacks,” refers to the menu’s ten types of pancakes, including white chocolate chip–raspberry, pineapple upside-down, and blueberry. Stax’s chef, Chris Barron, sports a good pedigree, with resumé lines from Market, Park 52, Red Light, and Opera. Tsaldaris, “28 going on 40,” comes from restaurant stock—his father owned Brandy’s, familiar to anyone who has waited on Cicero Avenue in Midway Airport traffic. “Stax” also rings a bell—maybe we once had a Lego knockoff by that name?


This Item Is About Chicago Fire Oven

From the literalist school of restaurant naming, Chicago Fire Oven (Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare, 5440 N. River Rd., Rosemont; 847-928-3860) opened in the spring in the convention center/airport hotel area of Rosemont. The Wood Stone oven turns out hand-tossed pizzas, a roasted artichoke dip, and a baked goat cheese with roasted pepper sauce. The chef, Michael Grove, a third-generation Chicago-area restaurant guy, says the half chicken roasted on a brick has become a signature item. Use of the oven extends to dessert, too, in an apple-pear-mascarpone pizza. On second thought, if the name were really literal, the place would actually be called Rosemont Fire Oven or Chicago-Area Fire Oven.


On the Blog

Rodelio Aglibot of Sunda is one of two head chefs for BLT Restaurant Group.


On Twitter

• Pollack loved the seafood caldo at Xoco.


Things to Do

1. Extend your little finger for afternoon tea at Perennial (1800 N. Lincoln Ave.; 312-981-7070), every Saturday and Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. It’s classic high tea: For $27, customers can get mini sandwiches and scones on a three-tiered canapé and the whole nine yards.

2. Start the weekend early with a wine flight at Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush (437 N. Rush St.; 312-222-0101), where $10 buys four pours (two white, two red) from 11 a.m. till 4 p.m. on Fridays.

3. Continue the early weekend at District Bar (170 W. Ontario St.; 312-337-3477), where each of five small plates costs $1 between 3 and 8 p.m. on Fridays.

4. Read another interview with Jean-Luc Naret of Michelin. In this one, he thoughtfully discusses how the fine-dining scenes of Chicago and New York compare.


Dot Dot Dot . . .

Sawtooth (1350 W. Randolph St.; 312-526-3320) opened this past Friday in the former Saltaus space. According to Metromix, it’s a contemporary Vietnamese spot. . . . The Bottle Blond reports that today, Reagle Beagle lost the retro theme to become Grami (160 E. Grand Ave.; 312-755-9645), a sports bar. . . . In addition to 676 Restaurant, the Omni Chicago now has Café 676 (Omni Chicago, 676 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-944-7676), which opened Monday on the sidewalk on the northeast corner of Huron and Michigan. The café has no indoor component, so it’s closed when the weather doesn’t cooperate. . . . Sono Wood Fired (1582 N. Clybourn Ave.; 312-255-1122) is open. . . . The Lettuce Entertain You project at Block 37 will be a Foodlife-like installation called The Block (108 N. State St.).