Ground Doughnut, a.k.a. Ground Zero
In 2012, doughnuts were at their peak. In 2013, even the founder of Enoch’s Doughnuts, the occasional business that grew out of the brunch menu at Nightwood, doesn’t want to be doughnut-holed—er, pigeonholed. “I didn’t want to do only doughnuts,” says Enoch Simpson, most recently of Girl & the Goat. “I am doing a full-on restaurant, and we are featuring my doughnuts.” That restaurant is Endgrain (1851 W. Addison St., 773-687-8191), a collaboration with Simpson’s woodworker brother, Caleb, at the site of the original Terragusto. Endgrain’s dishes include short rib pie with red onion jam, apples, and goats' Gouda, a Moroccan spiced eggplant sandwich with goat cheese, and a smoked lake trout sandwich on a marbled rye biscuit, cuisine Simpson calls American. “I just say American because I don’t want to nail myself to one genre,” he says. In the mornings, to-go doughnuts and La Colombe coffee will be for sale. Simpson hopes to open in a month or so, hopefully before doughnuts are totally eclipsed by eclairs.
“Worries go down better with soup.” —Yiddish proverb
When New Year’s resolutions began on Tuesday, Pizza D.O.C. turned over a new leaf to become Himmel’s (2251 W. Lawrence Ave., 773-784-8777), a German-inflected restaurant under the same ownership. “Since the beginning, we have wanted to make it more European,” says Carol Himmel, co-owner with her sister, Diana Himmel-Krewer. “People were saying, ‘We are going to Himmel’s,’ anyway. Time to be proud and put our name on the shingle.” D.O.C.’s menu of pastas, salads, and woodburning-oven pizzas remains available, now augmented by dishes such as hand-scored pork shank (a dish common in Munich, the sisters’ ancestral home), beef rouladen, and champignon rahm schnitzel, as well as more wood-oven options, including chicken, bone-in rib eye, and fish. Funny, our own resolution resembled crossing the Alps, too—cleaning our desks.
Chefs don’t always work at restaurants, catering, or in private homes, we’re reminded. “I was the executive sous chef for the Ringling Brothers circus,” says John Schultz, who opens Mr. Spanky’s Farm Fresh Artisan Foods (335 W. 31st St., 312-450-3069) today. Schultz and four other cooks traveled on two-year, 90-city tours, making between 5,000 and 10,000 meals a week for the troupe, support staff, and management. Settling in Chicago but loath to work for a boss, Schultz started Mr. Spanky’s as a farmers’ market booth, curing and smoking his own bacon and creating artisanal sausages. The Bridgeport storefront, a takeout business, sells soups, salads, and hot sandwiches, such as applewood-smoked pulled pork with pickled red onions and a Bad Ass BLT, using his bacon, sun-dried-tomato aïoli, and spinach, both sandwiches $3.50. “The concept is fast, healthy foods,” Schultz says. “With the exception of my bacon. Bacon is obviously not good for you, but anything in moderation, you know.” He also met his wife, Xin, at the circus, when she was working as a translator for a company of Chinese acrobats. A real circus catch.
Initial Public Offering
Continuing in the initials-and-hamburgers path trod by R.J. Grunts and P.J. Clarke’s, the hamburger joint HB Jones (551 S. York Rd., Elmhurst, 630-782-5669) opened in the western suburbs last month. The 6,000-square-foot, full-service spot offers about 20 specialty burgers, a build-your-own option, and a cheeseburger salad, which consists of iceberg lettuce, onions, pickles, Thousand Island dressing, and a burger topped with American and Swiss cheese plopped in the middle. “People are looking at it like a carbless cheeseburger,” says Tony Gambino, the owner. The menu also features meatloaf, roasted ribs, and daily specials, such as a fish fry and shrimp night. Just so you know, that place down the street with the sign that says A.C. Repair doesn’t serve burgers.
New Review: C-House
New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics’ recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website. Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. C-House previously was not rated, pending its chef change. The new review appears in the January issue, on newsstands now.
C-House (MileNorth Hotel, 166 E. Superior St., 312-523-0923). Contemporary American.
½ (good to very good)
$$$ ($40–$49 per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
Executive chef Rah Shabazz took the helm here last summer and has reworked the menu to include more dishes with a distinctly Southern accent. Standouts: a seriously meaty lamb shank braised with root beer and a rich slab of pork belly with grits and spicy collard greens. Keeping the mood going is an elegant serving of praline-bedecked sweet potato pie with maple ice cream, but longtime fans of this comfortable spot will be happy their meal can still end with sweets from the Candy Bar, if they wish. Specialty cocktails are worth checking out.
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
Just in time to caffeinate parents building Christmas toys for their kids late at night, Bill and Sara Roberts opened The Coffee Alley (1152 W. Taylor St., 312-526-3873) in the cuore of Little Italy. “I’m in charge of this. [Bill] tells everybody I’m the boss,” says Sara, a native of Venezuela. Named for its cobblestone floor, the café pours La Colombe coffee and serves homemade panini, such as roasted turkey with artichokes, roasted peppers, and rosemary olive oil, and custom savory pies from Pleasant House Bakery. Sounds like the best-smelling alley ever.
- In Capetown, South Africa, Pollack lingers over langoustines.
- Pollack’s new pachyderm pal reinvents farm-to-table.
- Tasha’s in Johannesburg makes a beet salad that can’t be beat.
Follow Pollack on Twitter.
Things to Do
- Eight out at Dunlays on the Square (3137 W. Logan Blvd., 773-227-2400) on January 8, when all food items will be $8 in honor of the restaurant’s eighth anniversary.
- Resist the urge to hibernate. The weekly charitable event Soup & Bread at the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia Ave., 773-227-4433) started this week and will continue every Wednesday until April, from 5:30 p.m. until the soup runs out. Donations benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
- Check out the Trib’s story on Chicago’s food truck woes.
- Little Goat Diner (820 W. Randolph St., 312-888-3455), Stephanie Izard’s version of the greasy spoon, debuted Friday.
- Vincenzo’s (1104 W. Madison St., 312-491-9800) started serving thin-crust pizza and other Italian dishes today in the West Loop.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Park 52 in Hyde Park will close January 9. . . . The health-focused LYFE Kitchen of Palo Alto, California, is opening storefronts in Chicago and Evanston by summer, with Art Smith (Table Fifty-Two) in charge. . . . The River North Hop Haus space has been taken over by Mercadito Hospitality to make way for a Ryan Poli and Tippling Bros. collaboration by the end of the summer. . . . Jason Wagner is leaving RM to take over sommelier duties at The Gage and Henri, replacing Shebnem Ince, who is headed for the wine store Perman Wine Selections.