The One Thing Randolph Ain’t Got
Angela Hepler-Lee, already a queen of Randolph Street as a partner in crowd-magnets Sushi Wabi and De Cero, adds another jewel to the crown in April: Veerasway (844 W. Randolph St.; 312-491-0844), a 50-seat modern Indian spot next door to Sushi Wabi. “Indian for Americans is really untouched,” says Hepler-Lee, who named the restaurant for a chef in London who inspired the idea. The plan: “approachable Indian” in a rustic-yet-contemporary space designed by Amelia Briske, who masterminded a gut rehab of an old produce stand. The kitchen, run by Moto alum Tyler Williams, will be equipped with two tandoor ovens—one for bread, one for everything else; his menu will include coconut-seared scallops and lamb sausage with apricots and almonds, plus classics like chicken tikka masala. Williams, a self-described “mutt from Michigan,” is bolstering his knowledge of the cuisine in the home of Ranjana Bhargava, whom he identifies only as “a Brahmin psychologist from South India.”
“Routine in cuisine is a crime.” –Edouard Nignon (1865-1934), French chef
5 Questions for Dion Antic, the nightlife legend (Harry’s Velvet Room, Bar 13, Iggy’s), who is opening Rockstar Dogs (801 N. Ashland Ave.; 312-421-2364), a tiny late-night hot dog stand, on March 6th
D: How did this come about?
DA: I’m a hot dog aficionado. Super Dawg was a weekly stop for me. I always wanted to do a hot dog stand, but only if it had the best dogs possible.
D: You using Vienna?
DA: Vienna. All the toppings will be cut fresh. Whole pickles sliced to order, not sitting in brine. You get fries with your dog and a Cracker Jack–style gift: guitar picks with our logo. Buttons. Temporary tattoos. If you get a wooden nickel, you get a free dog on your next visit. And, like Willy Wonka, there will be five golden coins. If you get one of those, you get a free dog every week for a year.
D: What else?
DA: I’m bringing the whole nightclub atmosphere to fast food, making it edgy. Putting a stripper pole in. You might as well have some fun when you are waiting in line at 2 a.m. If you dance for your dog, it’s free. This is from 10 p.m. to closing. We’ll keep it child friendly.
D: We heard Rockstar Dogs will be eco-friendly. How eco-friendly?
DA: No Styrofoam. All the boxes are printed on recycled paper. We are doing a biodiesel Mercedes for delivery. When we’re done using the fryer oil from the french fry oil, it will be strained and used for the delivery vehicle.
D: Nice idea. And Chicago gets the first outlet?
DA: It’s the home of the best hot dog. L.A. next. Probably Milwaukee and then Kansas City.
“We have revived some classics, for instance a beef en daube provençal [$14], which you don’t see too much. It’s beef cooked in a sealed pot very slowly for six hours with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and olives. And a bouquet garni with orange and stock. You actually seal the lid of the pot with a paste made of flour and water so nothing can get out. All the fat slowly renders and goes to the top so there’s very little fat left in the dish but all the flavors are sealed in.” –Larry Smith, the executive chef of Jerry’s (505 Chestnut St., Winnetka; 847-441-0134), a new 38-seat restaurant attached to Corner Cooks with a menu designed to appeal to women’s tastes
It’s a typical story: Jewish girl from the North Shore visits Israel; falls for dashing Israeli; brings him back to Chicago; he opens 60-seat casual kosher Israeli restaurant in rehabbed Rosati’s Pizza space. Couple lives happily ever after. Mizrahi Grill (215 Skokie Valley Rd., Highland Park; 847-831-1400), the love child of Eli and Alyssa Mizrahi, is slotted to open in early March with backing from SMC Food and Marketing, an Israeli Company. “Fresh ingredients, everything made on the spot,” says Eli Mizrahi. “A large variety of salads. Hummus, baba ghannouj, Israeli salad. Soft fries for the pita sandwiches made from fresh potatoes. Like in Israel.”
Long-Smoked, Long Grove
Todd Stoner and Tom Gescheidle, two Culinary Institute of America grads, launched Smokin’ T’s Barbeque (Route 22 & Old McHenry Rd., Long Grove; 847-726-0726), a 36-seat, counter-service BBQ restaurant in the northwest suburbs, last November. The place does everything (other than the fries) from scratch—soups, sauces, potato chips, baked beans—and smokes its pork shoulder on a Southern Pride smoker over hickory wood for up to 14 hours. “We do smoked Black Angus short ribs,” says Gescheidle. “It’s our version of beef brisket. We find it to be far more tender and consistent. Also a fantastic Amish chicken that we use for pulled chicken sandwiches. We’re not saying we’re the best, but we are pretty darned good.”
Things to Do
1. Go to Dinotto Ristorante (215 W. North Ave.; 312-202-0302) on Presidents’ Day (February 18th), and order the “Lincoln-Washington Special.” It’s a choice of three pastas, each for $6. (Get it? Lincoln is $5; Washington is $1. Nope, neither did we.)
2. Any time after 5 p.m., sample the Italian bar snacks at A Mano (335 N. Dearborn St.; 312-629-3500)—polenta fries with sun-dried tomato aïoli, artisan cheese plates, bruschetta trios, stromboli—each of which costs only a Lincoln. Take that, Dinotto.
3. “Who wants the word ‘bong’ on a menu?”
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Great Lake (1477 W. Balmoral; 773-334-9270), a new spot next door to Andersonville’s La Tache, had a soft opening earlier this week. Thin-crust pizzas on tap. Anybody drop in yet? . . . According to its answering machine, Tony Rocco’s River North (416 W. Ontario St.; 312-787-1400), a cozy Italian spot, has “temporarily” closed. . . . Gaylord India Restaurant, which had held court at 678 North Clark Street since the seventies, has moved to the Gold Coast (100 E. Walton St.; 312-664-1700), where it will reopen in mid-April. “The building was sold and they didn’t want restaurants anymore,” says Jeet Singh, the assistant manager. “So we looked for a bigger place.”