Nine Questions for Greg Biggers
The new chef at Café des Architectes (Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, 20 E. Chestnut St.; 312-324-4063) is Greg Biggers, a veteran of Morimoto in Philadelphia, Fulton’s on the River, and Tru as well as other Rick Tramonto ventures. He fills the big toque left by Martial Noguier. Biggers started this past Monday.
Dish: Did you always know you wanted to be a chef?
Greg Biggers: Absolutely. I started as a dishwasher when I was 15 and have been in the kitchen ever since.
D: You started washing dishes because your parents told you to get a job?
GB: That’s how it works.
D: How did you get away from the sink?
GB: Watching everything around me. There was a day I decided I wanted to be on the line instead of the dish pit. I made myself available, and people started taking me under their wings, and it was off to the races from there.
D: Did you audition at Café des Architectes?
GB: I did an interview, and we had a tasting two days later. We did some breakfast, lunch, and some new dinner items.
D: Like what, for breakfast, for example?
GB: Lingonberry waffle with honey-whipped ricotta, shaved foie gras torchon, and Burton’s Maplewood Farm syrup.
D: And dinner?
GB: Seared scallop with duck confit crépinette. With a brunoisette carrot soup.
D: Are you developing a new menu?
GB: We haven’t really nailed our feet to the fire as far as a start date, but we are looking to restart the menu probably sometime in March.
D: Where are you from originally?
D: What was your favorite dish that your mom made?
GB: Chicken and dumplins. That was the one dish that she made on Saturdays because it took all day. And make sure there is no g in dumplins. It’s “dumplins.”
“Don’t use margarine—the only good use for margarine is for children’s suppositories.” —George Leonard Herter (1911–1994), American businessman and dubious-book writer
A shop named with a pun we wish we had thought of, the Lake View wine boutique Que Syrah is working on the space two doors south at 3714 North Southport Avenue for a wine and coffee bar. “We might call it Que Syrah Syrah,” says Don Hupp, a partner. Hupp says the new place will serve “charcuterie-style food,” meaning meats and cheeses possibly made into panini, from Stephanie Bellus Frey, formerly of La Tache. Next maybe they can come up with niche wine stores, like Michael Syrah for Arrested Development fans or Abduction from the Syrahglio for opera lovers. Okay, we’ll stick to dining news.
Cupcakes may be proliferating like rabbits (rabbit—now that would be a good trend), but cookies will never go out of style. Hilary’s Cookies (4917 N. Lincoln Ave.; no phone yet) is slated for a January 29th opening. The storefront will sell the dense but chewy cookies—many of them vegan—available at local Whole Foods. Hilary Black, the owner, started the business in 2003 during a brief sojourn in Los Angeles. Through an event planner, she got her first job catering an Easter party for Lisa Marie Presley. “I created a peanut butter banana cookie,” Black says. “C’mon! It was Lisa Marie Presley.” The shop will stock a roster of classic flavors, such as chocolate chip, as well as seasonal flavors, including peanut butter and jelly for back-to-school days. Also . . . “I have a cookie cupcake,” Black says. There is no escape.
He Said It
“We buy the meat. We grind it. We spice it. We case it.” —Mike Wojcik, a partner in Westminster Hot Dog (11 N. Wells St.; no phone yet), a Loop counter-service spot specializing in house-made sausages and opening today. Twelve sausages occupy permanent places on the menu, and more exotic meats, including elk, antelope, and kangaroo, rotate in and out of other menu slots.
Although Cafe Matou closed only last November, the next occupant of the space has already been revealed: Silom 12 (1846–48 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-489-1212), which we first heard about in Eater. The BYO restaurant will open tomorrow night, offering Thai classics—a noodle dish will run $9 or $10. “I want to present Thai food in a different way,” says Chantima Kamarchevakul, the owner. She will serve the food with the sugar and spice levels authentic to Thailand, and servers will explain details about eating it that Americans often don’t know. What we’d like to know is how anyone eats Thai chili peppers. Our tongues hurt just from typing that.
• Chimney cake: a Transylvanian treat that’s new on the street
• The new River North noodle spot from Takashi Yagihashi will be called Slurping Turtle.
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Things to Do
1. Grab free bites of cheese, melted into goo in the Swiss manner on raclette machines, this Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Lake View Pastoral (2945 N. Broadway; 773-472-4781) and this Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the other Pastoral locations (53 E. Lake St.; 312-658-1250 and 131 N. Clinton St.; 312-454-2200).
2. Swallow your pride before you swallow pie at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab (60 E. Grand Ave.; 312-379-5637), which has extended the fake holiday of National Pie Day into an entire fake holiday season by giving away free slices of homemade pie from January 23rd through 31st. All you have to do is buy an entrée and abase yourself by saying “easy as pie.”
3. Tie on a plastic bib and head to Davis Street Fishmarket (501 Davis St., Evanston; 847-869-3474), where a 1¼-pound whole Maine lobster dinner is $19.95 any day this month.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Every bird gets the worm (er, the bagel) at Rewster’s (3152 W. Diversey Ave.; 773-647-3432), a newly opened spot in Logan Square that we first heard about from Time Out Chicago. Rewster’s offers bagel sandwiches, frittatas, and other breakfast bites all day (soups, sandwiches, and salads are available from 10 a.m. to close). . . . A second Meatyballs Mobile (@FossFoodTrucks on Twitter) hit the streets Tuesday, which makes us wonder whether Phillip Foss is building a meat fleet. . . . Caminito (1629 N. Halsted St.; 312-846-6911), an Argentinean restaurant that opened in November, helps keep alive the South American tradition of Día de Ñoquis (Gnocchi Day) by hiding $1—for good luck—under any plate of gnocchi ordered on the 29th day of every month. . . . Spanish, Mediterranean, and Latin American flavors influence the hot and cold tapas, paellas, and other dishes at La Taberna Tapas on Halsted (1301 S. Halsted St.; 312-243-9980), now serving lunch (including a weekday prix fixe menu for $10) and dinner in University Village. . . . Fresh off its Michelin star, Bonsoirée (2728 W. Armitage Ave.; 773-486-7511) is enclosing its patio in order to use it year-round. . . . Etno Village Grill (2580 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-698-8069), a quick-service Eastern European restaurant, opens today. . . . Our condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Ric Hess, who suffered a fatal heart attack Monday evening in his restaurant and bar, Sheffield’s (3258 N. Sheffield Ave.; 773-281-4989).