Don’t Be Boring
Longtime foodies Glenna Elvery and her husband, Dudley, knew from their own restaurant-going experience what a place should not be. For example, “We went to this fine-dining restaurant, maybe ten inches between tables,” she says. “I sit down, and the sun is boring through my cornea because I am sitting where the sun came in. And the food stank.” The Elverys hope to open The Cottage on Dixie (18849 S. Dixie Hwy., Homewood, 708-798-8263) on November 1, filling a void they see in the south suburbs and dodging those pitfalls. They have hired Robert Burt as the general manager and Michael Flamini as the chef, both recently of Flossmoor’s Fresh Starts, and are developing a core American artisanal menu of locally sourced dishes. Monthly specials will reflect the cuisine of specific regions. “The first month will be an American twist on the Breton and Norman areas of France,” Burt says. And we bet they’ll pull the shades if anyone asks.
“You can find your way around this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.” —Charles Kuralt (1934–1997), American journalist
Mark Steuer left the post of executive chef at Mindy’s HotChocolate after working his way up from line cook, with the hope of showcasing the food of his native city, Charleston, South Carolina. The first attempt fell through, bouncing him to The Gage and then to The Bedford, Wicker Park’s bank-turned-bar-and-restaurant. In mid-September, Steuer, now 30, is scheduled to open his Charlestonian-food place, Carriage House (1700 W. Division St., 773-384-9700), with the ownership team from The Bedford. “Southern food doesn’t have to be heavy,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be deep-fried. It doesn’t have to be barbecued. There’s a lot more to it.” He cites a riff on a traditional clam boil as an example. Steuer will steam clams from Capers Inlet in Charleston—shipped to him by a guy named Clammer Dave—in hard cider and combine them with Vidalia onions, fennel, house-smoked tasso ham, and tarragon butter. The menu will divide into two sections: small plates under $18 and very large plates for family-style sharing, such as a Low Country boil (boiled shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes). His former boss, Mindy Segal of Mindy’s HotChocolate, is pitching in on dessert recipes. A nice, heart-warming story—we always love to hear about a successful Carriage proposal.
New Review: Antique Taco
New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics’ recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website. Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. Antique Taco previously was not listed. The review appears in the September issue, on newsstands tomorrow.
Antique Taco (1360 N. Milwaukee Ave., 773-687-8697). Mexican.
½ (good to very good)
¢ (under $20 per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
Vintage kitchen tools are part of the decor, but there’s nothing antique about this cheerful, supercasual storefront’s Mexican market food, which sparkles with fresh flavors. Order at the counter, sit down, and relax. The rosemary-infused margaritas come in milk-bottle pitchers, the guacamole is kicky, and the tacos are carefully built with smartly sourced ingredients (tamarind-glazed pork, bacon, spinach, heirloom tomato salsa). Finish with Abuelita’s Pop Tart stuffed with marshmallow and Mexican chocolate, or a lovely horchata milk shake.
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
Five Questions for Gabriel Viti
Viti owns Miramar Bistro in Highwood, where he also operated Gabriel’s, a well-regarded white-tablecloth restaurant that closed July 21 after 19 years. Besides that, he’s also an avid mountain climber, having already completed the Seven Summits, the highest points on each continent.
Dish: How did you decide to close?
Gabriel Viti: I closed Gabriel’s the day after I decided to climb K2. That’s the second highest mountain in the world, located in Pakistan. I want to be physically and mentally really prepared for this. I don’t want to be on the most dangerous mountain on the planet with so much hanging over me. Miramar has been great and just rocking. We incorporated some of the Gabriel’s favorites: crespelli, the osso buco, the seared ahi tuna.
D: Who is the chef at Miramar right now?
GV: Chino. He likes to be called Chino. He has been at Miramar for eight years. And I had a Chino at Gabriel’s. Chino 2 was with me at Gabriel’s for 18 years.
D: Are things pretty different from when you opened 19 years ago?
GV: I was with [the fine-dining restaurateur] Joël Robuchon two months ago in Vegas. He agrees: Basically, fine dining is finished. When I opened Gabriel’s, no one would come in not wearing a jacket. Now everyone is casual and on their cell phones. I ate at Alinea six months ago. I thought it was the best meal I ever had. I was there four and a half hours. But there’s not a lot of people willing to tie up so much time at dinner.
D: Do you have more mountain climbing planned, other than K2?
GV: I leave in September for Russia. October and November in Nepal. January I’m in Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand climbing. This is all part of my quest to do the second summits, the second highest summits on all the continents. They are more difficult than the highest ones. I will finish up in Antarctica in November of next year.
D: You sound like you’re doing well for someone who just closed a restaurant.
GV: Life is wonderful. When I die, I want to come back as me.
The Ice Storm
Speaking of Highwood, here’s Stephanie Orsi, the proprietress of the Orsi’s Italian Ice truck regularly parked in front of downtown Highwood’s bowling center The Alley. Her comments on her truck, the latest mobile frozen-delights purveyor, are condensed and edited.
“My husband‘s family has been in the restaurant business for 40 years: Tutto Bene. We did great, and then the economy hit. He has a car dealer license, too, so he has an old trailer, and I wanted it out of the yard. We looked like Sanford & Son. He started building it into this mobile ice stand. It looks like Mario’s Italian Lemonade on Taylor Street—the red and green lights. I’ve got a customer from Lake Forest who comes every day by 4:20. I open at 4. We opened July 8, and I bet he’s been here 20 times. He always gets seven scoops of coconut. On weekends, we offer a $2 shot inside The Alley to go over the ice. Black raspberry and vodka. Lemon-lime and tequila.”
“The big black dog—that’s the Newfoundland I have in my back yard. We put the restaurant together with him as the mascot,” says Chuck Rometty, the owner of The Big Black Dog Tavern & Grill (1141 Central Ave., Wilmette, no phone yet) in downtown Wilmette. Doggy-, er, kitty-corner from Rometty’s other place, the bistro and wine bar Gilson’s, Big Black Dog will smoke its own brisket, pork, chicken, and St. Louis–style ribs in-house and offer three styles of house-made barbecue sauce: Texas, North Carolina mustard, and Memphis sweet. Appetizers include Tater Tots, mac and cheese squares, and gator bites, a fried treat our somewhat faulty memories can only remember seeing in Everglades tourist traps. The bar—beer and wine only—will offer bottles from around the globe, possibly including Poland, Thailand, or the Czech Republic. Given the name of the place, maybe they ought to pull some beers from Pomerania, Chihuahua, and, of course, Newfoundland.
- Pollack goes for the gold at La Fournette.
- The trendiest dessert is . . .
- Pollack is sticking with that claim about the dessert trend.
- A bit of plate-licking occurs at Trenchermen.
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Things to Do
- Nesh Mediterranean Grill (110 S. Wells St., 312-251-0144), a quick-serve spot serving items such as wraps, falafel, and hummus, has expanded, adding a Loop location to its existing one in Lincoln Park.
- City Winery (1200 W. Randolph St., 312-733-9463), a spinoff of the NYC restaurant/bar/wine shop/music venue, officially opens its doors today.
- LM (Hotel Felix, 111 W. Huron St., 312-202-9900), the French restaurant that relocated from Lincoln Square to take up residence in the former Elate space, makes its debut today.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
We learned from Time Out Chicago that the previous speculation was warranted: The Telegraph crew will open a new concept in the space recently vacated by Ciao Napoli. . . . 312 Dining Diva reports that Dion Antic (Bagel on Damen, Melt Sandwich Shoppe, Porkchop) plans to open Canto, a Japanese-style tapas bar in Wicker Park. . . . Chuck Hamburg, a hospitality instructor at Roosevelt University and the former owner of Flourchild’s in Lincolnshire, is consulting with his partner, Brian Margulis, on Vincenzo’s (1104 W. Madison St., no phone yet), a neighborhood Italian place slated to open in October in the former Plush space. Hamburg says the East Coast pizza guru Santo Bruno will come to teach employees to make pizza.