Fred Ramos, a veteran chef who most recently ran the show at Room 21 (and Gioco, Printer’s Row, and Pili.Pili), has signed on with a large-scale steak house in the heart of River North. “It’s going to be a modern steak house—the new hip scene,” says Ramos, who will be competing with nearby beef palaces Keefer’s, Ruth’s Chris, Sullivan’s, and Harry Caray’s. The still-unnamed restaurant, owned by Chicago investors, will have homemade pastas, an ambitious rooftop deck, and its own dry-aging room. (Ramos has been hanging out in a couple of local restaurants to learn dry aging.) Expect a midsummer opening.
“A man who loves good food has a way of making it gravitate toward his kitchen.”–Angelo Pellegrini (1904-91), Italian American writer
7 Questions for Bart Moccio, the owner of Smokin’ M’s (7507 W. Roosevelt Rd., Forest Park; 708-488-0123), a new barbecue place in the western suburbs
D: Have you got a minute?
BM: Sure. But I’ve got to watch the pit, or the place could burn down.
D: Do you have barbecue experience?
BM: We opened a place in Maywood in 1985, Meatballs Etc. An old friend of my dad’s taught me barbecue. Put ribs and rib tips, chicken wings, catfish, shrimp, barbecue pork, barbecue beef, on the menu. Then in 1993 the village eminently domained me. I didn’t get enough money to retire.
D: What became of the space?
BM: It became a car dealership. It’s closed now.
D: You’re 53. Why open a restaurant now?
BM: Everyone wanted too much rent so we put all the stuff away. In storage. In my garage. Got married, divorced. Ran tanning salons. Got a job working for Old Style; drove a beer truck for a while. Then my mother decided to put me back in business.
D: Is Smokin’ M’s carryout, counter service, table service?
BM: It’s kind of everything—I’ve got three or four tables—but it’s mainly carryout. I’m across the street from the Chicago Bulk Mail Center, and they’ve got something like 5,000 employees on three shifts.
D: Nice. What do they order?
BM: I’ve got nine things on the menu. We make our own hot links, and our own sauce, coleslaw, and sweet potato pie. A full slab of St. Louis–style ribs is $15.99. Includes fries, bread, and coleslaw.
D: How’s business?
BM: The doors are still open. Not making any money yet, but the doors are still open. Plus, who opens in December?
Name That Restaurant, Part Three
Jerry Kleiner is still going with Park 52 as the name for his upcoming spot at 52nd and Lake Park, but he liked one of your suggestions so much that he’s giving out a Champagne dinner anyway. Dan Kirschner, who proposed Point, come forward and claim your prize. Kirschner’s original e-mail said, “[Point] subtly speaks to the legacy of its Hyde Park home—The Point—while being geographically universal. It begs the question: What is the point? And will answer that question by being both on point and to the point. Leaving off the ‘The’ is necessary to avoid confusion among Hyde Parkers who ask: Wanna go to The Point? Are they speaking of the restaurant or the promontory?”
5 reasons we’re excited about the still-unnamed restaurant opening this summer at 21st and Halsted
- It’s a collaboration between Jason Hammel and Amalea Tshilds (Lula Café), Matt Eisner (Empire Liquors), and Kevin Heisner (a Blackbird alum).
- Part of the wood/brick/steel design by Heisner calls for a small private outdoor garden set off the street.
- The kitchen, run by Jason Vincent (Lula’s current sous-chef), will be outfitted with a large wood-fired grill with a turnspit.
- The organic, locally sourced food will include handmade pasta.
- And sausages.
Licia and Perry Accardo, owners of Glenview’s gourmet Italian shop L’Appetito, decided to remodel and spin it into Trattoria Belluno (1836 Glenview Rd., Glenview; 847-729-0465), a 70-seat restaurant. “A lot of our customers gave us signs that they would prefer us to be a sit-down restaurant,” Licia Accardo says. “Glenview is in desperate need of restaurants.” Sabrina Ball, former chef of Ballydoyle’s in Downers Grove, is doing a lot of the Accardo family’s straightforward recipes, like eggplant Parmesan and veal Marsala.
All Kinds of Goodies
Crema Pastry (5159 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-275-5344), a 16-seat American/French bakery from Avner Rarang—the former exec pastry chef at the Hotel InterContinental—opened last November. Crema’s got the usual array of cookies, tarts, cupcakes, mini-cakes, fruit mousses, and banana loaves, but Rarang is partial to his lemoncello cake. “It’s lemon mousse with apricot compote,” he says. “And it’s got vanilla genoise and a shortbread cookie bottom.”
Things to Do
- Give Viet Bistro (1346 W. Devon Ave.; 773-465-5720) your hard-earned business: Dan Nguyen’s smart Vietnamese spot is offering a four-course, $29 prix fixe menu throughout February.
- Get a free hot toddy at MK (868 N. Franklin St.; 312-482-9179) any time the temperature drops below freezing—which is pretty much every day, right?
- Watch this short video of the best song ever about cheesecakes.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Michael Carlson of Schwa (1466 N. Ashland Ave.; 773-252-1466) is back in the kitchen of his hallowed BYO after three months off, working on new dishes like a beer cheese soup. Expect a mid-February reopening, which means: You should’ve made reservations a month ago. . . . Fan Si Pan (1618 W. Chicago Ave.), a Vietnamese fast-food spot in West Town, has closed. . . . Jimmy Bannos (Heaven on Seven) will cook Cajun-Creole dishes on The Today Show on February 4th (the day before Mardi Gras). . . . Green Grocer Chicago, an organic-focused neighborhood grocery, has opened at 1402 West Grand Avenue. . . . Spotland Yard (907 N. Damen Ave.; 773-698-6087), a new pet boutique, features a “barkista” bar for dogs and cats where your beloved Muffy can enjoy herbal tea, vitamin drinks, smoothies, churros, and doggy doughnuts. . . . Pizza-Ria has sold its space in the North and Clybourn el station to Bacci Pizzeria. . . . On February 4th, Tru (676 N. St. Clair St.; 312-202-0001) launches a $285 “Sommelier’s Collection” menu, for which sommelier Chad Ellegood picked the wines first, and chef de cuisine Tim Graham came up with a matching menu. Sounds interesting. And expensive.