Tomorrow, the World!

Maher Chebaro and Nemer Ziyad, the co-owners of dress-your-own-pita spot Falafill (3202 N. Broadway; 773-525-0052), are planning an empire—a chain of Falafills bringing fried chickpeas to the masses. “We are trying to do maybe five this year,” says Chebaro, who is also the chef. Negotiations have begun on three locations already: in Evanston, in Rogers Park, and near State and Madison in the Loop, with a goal to open in June. They hope the new spots will make their own pita fresh, and each new store will incorporate a few location-specific menu tweaks, such as omelet pitas and coffee for the breakfast crowd in the Loop. Chebaro and Ziyad also have Wicker Park and University Village in their sights for 2010. And the Chicago sites are just the appetizer to jumping state lines. “The next step will be to go to Milwaukee and Madison,” Chebaro says. “We want to go all over the country. We just want to pace ourselves.”


“All human history attests / That happiness for man—the hungry sinner!— / Since Eve ate apples, much depends on dinner.” –from Don Juan, by George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), English poet

Terragusto Tre

“We are looking at opening something in Glencoe,” says Theo Gilbert, the chef and owner of Terragusto, which already has locations on Addison in Roscoe Village and in Lincoln Park (where Gilbert is a co-owner). Gilbert plans to keep the farm-to-table approach—working with the Glencoe farmers’ market—for a BYO-friendly (expect a small corkage fee) restaurant and market, to open in June, if all goes well. Sounds to us like a real boon to Glencoe, and also to Writers’ Theatre-goers.

Five Questions for Colleen Benedetto

Johnny B’s Bar & Grill (8436 Brookfield Ave., Brookfield; 708-485-4504) recently acquired a new smoker and revamped its menu. We chatted with Johnny B’s wife, Colleen Benedetto, about the change.

D: Are you running the smoker yourself, or did you bring someone else in to do it?
CB: We have a man called Mr. 50s Savory Smokehouse doing it. He’s handling the kitchen. He is doing all the cooking. That’s what he wants to call himself.

D: Who ran your kitchen before Mr. 50s?
CB: Johnny and I were running the kitchen before. Made our own pizza, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches. We’re still working in the kitchen.

D: Were you looking for a new cook?
CB: He approached us. His name is Keith. I couldn’t even tell you his last name. Our kitchen was going really slow and we were chitchatting in the bar. He’s a good friend of a friend of ours, and he said he’d be happy to help us out.

D: What’s he making in the smoker?
CB: He smokes his own ribs. He prides himself on his no-sauce barbecue. It’s dry rub. He uses it [the dry rub] on the chicken and the ribs and the rib tips. Although he doesn’t use sauce on the meat, he puts a little on the side if you want it.

D: So what’s with the name?
CB: He’s looking ahead to maybe someday opening his own restaurant.

Just Deserts

Like bubbles in Bubbly Creek, another promising restaurant has popped up in Bridgeport: Zaytune Mediterranean Grill (3129 S. Morgan St.; 773-254-6300), a Middle Eastern counter-service spot that opened in December. The owner and chef, Daniel Sarkiss, a Kendall College grad and corporate-restaurant escapee, makes everything from scratch: shawarma, falafel, baba ghannouj, tabouleh, hummus, and baklava. Sarkiss says that before his arrival, the neighborhood was a desert for Middle Eastern food, but that the new culinary culture has welcomed him. “Bridgeport is starting to change,” he says. “Everyone is really excited that we are here.”

He Said It

“The spaghetti and meatballs is as good here as at any red-sauce Italian restaurant in Chicago, and I was the chef at Rosebud for six years.” –James Caputo, executive chef at Leo’s Coney Island (3455 N. Southport Ave.; 773-281-5367), scheduled to open February 15th.

Cumin Comin’

Aiming for a mid-March opening in Wicker Park is Cumin (1414 N. Milwaukee Ave.; no phone yet), serving Indian and Nepalese food—two related but not identical cuisines. “Pretty much the spices are in common, but we don’t use dairy products in Nepalese dishes. Indian [has] creams and stuff,” says Sanjeev Karmacharya, the principal owner. Karmacharya points to namche bazako sekuwa, which is marinated goat chunks cooked in a tandoor, as a Nepalese menu highlight. “Namche is very popular in the upper Himalayas,” he says. Evanston’s Mt. Everest restaurant provided Cumin’s seed, you might say—Min Thapa (Cumin’s chef) and Rajesh Karmacharya (its manager, as well as Sanjeev’s brother) both worked there for several years.

Things to Do

  1. Steak out at T-Bones Steakhouse (1890 W. Main St., St. Charles; 630-762-0200) on Monday evenings, when you can get an eight-ounce New York strip and a Caesar salad for $12.
  2. Melt for Raclette in an event at Chicago French Market (131 N. Clinton St.; 312-575-0306), where Hans Aeschbacher (Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Smith & Wollensky) will demonstrate how the fondue-like dish with the same name as the cheese is made and consumed.
  3. Eat between 5 and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday or 5 and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at Crofton on Wells (535 N. Wells St.; 312-755-1790) and get a three-course prix fixe menu for $35, or $55 with two glasses of wine.
  4. Go next door to the Oasis Bar & Lounge at Tizi Melloul (531 N. Wells St.; 312-670-4338) for $3 martinis, Monday through Friday during the month of February.

Dot Dot Dot . . .

State Street Pizza Company (400 N. State St.; 312-624-8270) opened January 11th, somewhat later than its original projected August opening. . . . Elsewhere in the 400 North State building, the owners of Bull & Bear (431 N. Wells St.; 312-527-5973) plan to open another bar utilizing their patented tabletop beer taps, Metromix reports. . . . The Greektown fixture Costa’s (340 S. Halsted St.; 312-263-9700) suffered a devastating fire Monday. . . . A second location of Juicy-O (6300 S. Kingery Highway, Willowbrook; 630-468-2585) opened December 23rd. One of Juicy-O’s co-owners, Jimmy Banakis, hopes the new location will roast its own coffee. . . . Joyeux anniversaire to the original Heaven on Seven (111 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-263-6443), turning 30 on Thursday. Laissez les bons temps rouler!