Rising Sun on Clark
The old Platiyo space (3313 N. Clark St.) next to Mia Francesca is getting a big-name tenant: Lynne Wallack, the owner of Deleece (4004 N. Southport Ave.; 773-325-1710). Wallack; her husband, John Handler; and Deleece’s chef, Josh Hansen, are partners in Shochu, the planned 80-seat Japanese-American lounge named for a Japanese distilled liquor. “This will be the place that brings shochu into Chicago, and does it in an American way,” says Wallack, who cites the fact that shochu now outsells saké in Japan. “The Japanese compare it to vodka but it’s lower in calories and alcohol content. [Shochu is roughly 25 to 30 percent alcohol content]. And smoother.” Wallack’s crew has a menu of “Asian-edged” small plates (maki, yakitori with seven different sauces) to go with an extensive shochu/cocktail list. And they’re definitely playing up the supposed health benefits of the drink: “We found research on this man [Shigechiyo Izumi, 1865-1986] in the Guinness Book of World Records who lived to be 120,” says Wallack. “The doctors told him he needed to stop drinking, but he attributed his long life to shochu. There will be a picture of him in the bar.” Bonus: Shortly after the place opens in April, it’ll be warm enough for that 50-seat patio in back.
“Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables. They probably get jet-lagged, just like people.” –Elizabeth Berry, American farmer/writer
Troy Graves, for three years the skilled executive chef of the now-shuttered Meritage Cafe & Wine Bar, will head the kitchen at Tallulah (4539 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-942-7585), a 45-seat American bistro coming to the old She She space in late February. “I am doing new takes on bistro classics, like steak frites [$26] with a garlic soy jus,” says Graves. “And the fries are going to come with yuzu togarashi mayo for dipping.” Who’s doing desserts? “I’m doing everything,” says Graves. “I want to do a chai crème brûlée.” His boss, Matt Fisher, formerly owned Bad Dog Tavern next door.
NXXT Restaurant & Bar (2700 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-489-6998), a 91-seat contemporary American spot in West Town with an organic slant, has marked February 10th on the calendar as opening day. Jonathan Meyer, the chef, says the menu spans all regions of the United States: “We do a roasted half chicken marinated with thyme and lavender and served with roasted mashed potatoes and honey-glazed baby carrots . . . various pot pies . . . an upscale Vermont grilled Cheddar sandwich with roasted tomato bisque.” NXXT’s peach cobbler comes from an unlikely source: George Nickolopoulos,the general manager, was in Mississippi with Habitat for Humanity last spring when he was invited to a Baptist church for supper. “I met a fabulous woman named Bea,” Nickolopoulos says. “And she was kind enough to give me her recipe.”
A conversation with Greg Mohr and Scott Weiner, partners at The Fifty/50 (2047 W. Division St.; 773-489-5050), opening in Wicker Park in mid-March
D: Fess up. Is it going to be a sports bar?
GM: Somewhat. It’s three floors. The top floor will have a heavy concentration of TVs, as will the basement bar. But the main floor just has a few screens behind the bar.
SW: We don’t want to call ourselves a sports bar but we will have a lot of sports-related people here. Several of our investors are pro athletes. [Note: Dish begged, but Weiner and Mohr would not reveal who.]
D: OK—how did you hook up with them?
SW: At Joe’s [Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab], we used to bring postgame meals to the Cubs, White Sox, and Bears and got to know a lot of the players.
D: Tell us about your menu.
SW: A lot of these recipes are just old-school great bar recipes, stuff we’ve worked on in our restaurant careers [at Gibsons, Johnny Rockets, and China Grill]. But we brought in a classically French-trained chef to do it. Nobody does that. At this concept level, it’s usually coming out of a freezer bag.
D: Who is he?
SW: Brian Storey. He was at Sidebar and Block 44. He is using real stocks and the highest-quality ingredients, but we are not getting cute. Keeping it simple.
D: For example?
SW: Our burger. Calling it the triple secret burger. It’s actually a modification of the original burger that [Rich] Melman used when he opened RJ Grunts. It’s three different cuts of beef. The texture, the flavor—it just melts in your mouth.
GM: We are working on it with the guy who developed it for Melman.
SW: Or our Buffalo wings. We are making and aging our own Louisiana hot sauce. Nobody does that. And the breading of the wings. We developed a seasoned flour mix with one of our local spice merchants.
GM: It’s basically the things that Scott and I like to eat. We are jeans and T-shirts kinds of guys.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Noodles & Company has opened a branch of its quick-casual Asian restaurant chain at 180 North Michigan Avenue (312-981-7110). . . . Mia Francesca (3311 N. Clark St.; 773-281-3310) is closed until February 9th for a quick facelift. . . . Last week, we misspelled the name of a partner in an unnamed restaurant opening soon at 21st Street and Halsted. His name is Matt Eisler. Dish regrets the error. . . . Natalino’s (1523 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-997-3700), an earnest Italian spot from Michael Genovese (Park Ridge’s Píano Píano) opens on February 18th. “It’s homemade pastas and sauces,” says Genovese. “Everything from scratch.” . . . Worst new product name: We recently got a pitch for a whole-grain fruit juice called Froose. Yeah, that should catch on.